Deciding if the Law is for me: Work-Life Balance after Law School

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MohawkMonk87

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Deciding if the Law is for me: Work-Life Balance after Law School

Postby MohawkMonk87 » Wed Dec 04, 2019 6:04 pm

Hello Everyone,

Thanks in advance for reading this. I am an occasional poster and long time lurker on this site.

I am a 32 year old, non-URM military veteran (Army) with a 3.74 UPGA and a graduate degree in divinity (HYP, I bring that up not because it matters for divinity itself but as a soft factor in potential admissions). After a lot of consideration I have decided to use my divinity school studies to pursue national guard chaplaincy, leaving me to consider what I would like to do full time. As I have three years of GI Bill remaining, I am considering law school.

My question is this, while a legal career seems to play to a lot of my strengths/preferences with regard to it being an analytical profession bound to the written text, the work culture as I've seen it reported admittedly gives me pause. As a 32 year old who is single and looking to have a family at some point, I admit I am less "hungry" than I would've been in my early twenties. I would much rather have a 40 hour week that paid high five to low six figures than a 60+ hour week that paid more. In short, is it reasonable to think such jobs exist? The trend I see here and in other online legal communities seems to be that of new associates working 60-70 hours in a free for all to make partner. I respect people who want that but I know it isn't for me at this stage. I am also willing to consider public positions and would get hiring preferences on account of my military service. Any advice you have is greatly appreciated.

Halp

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Re: Deciding if the Law is for me: Work-Life Balance after Law School

Postby Halp » Wed Dec 04, 2019 6:13 pm

Young lawyer here. Others may differ, but based on my experience, no, I don’t think a legal job with great work life balance exists (at least not without grinding for literal years first). Also, to the extent these positions do exist, it’s hard to find them (government jobs will claim to be cushy hours but then not be, etc).

Someone please tell me I’m wrong...so that I can go get this job lol. I legit haven’t found it yet...

QContinuum

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Re: Deciding if the Law is for me: Work-Life Balance after Law School

Postby QContinuum » Wed Dec 04, 2019 6:37 pm

Halp wrote:Young lawyer here. Others may differ, but based on my experience, no, I don’t think a legal job with great work life balance exists (at least not without grinding for literal years first). Also, to the extent these positions do exist, it’s hard to find them (government jobs will claim to be cushy hours but then not be, etc).

Someone please tell me I’m wrong...so that I can go get this job lol. I legit haven’t found it yet...

I think state/local government legal jobs with meaningful work and great work-life balance absolutely exist, and Mohawk could be very competitive for those, as a veteran. Trouble is, those jobs don't tend to pay anywhere close to the ~$100k Mohawk's looking for, at least starting out. They also often want folks with some experience going in.

"True" 9-6s paying ~$100k are like the holy grail on TLS. They tend to be just as elusive for new grads. It's more realistic (though still not guaranteed) to either start in a more demanding job, then try to snag one of these cushier gigs 5-10 years out, or start in a cushy gig, and slowly work one's way up the salary ladder, again over 5-10 years.

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Admin3

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Re: Deciding if the Law is for me: Work-Life Balance after Law School

Postby Admin3 » Wed Dec 04, 2019 6:41 pm

Also, check this thread out: viewtopic.php?f=23&t=228583&start=800

Halp

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Re: Deciding if the Law is for me: Work-Life Balance after Law School

Postby Halp » Wed Dec 04, 2019 6:45 pm

QContinuum wrote:
Halp wrote:Young lawyer here. Others may differ, but based on my experience, no, I don’t think a legal job with great work life balance exists (at least not without grinding for literal years first). Also, to the extent these positions do exist, it’s hard to find them (government jobs will claim to be cushy hours but then not be, etc).

Someone please tell me I’m wrong...so that I can go get this job lol. I legit haven’t found it yet...

I think state/local government legal jobs with meaningful work and great work-life balance absolutely exist, and Mohawk could be very competitive for those, as a veteran. Trouble is, those jobs don't tend to pay anywhere close to the ~$100k Mohawk's looking for, at least starting out. They also often want folks with some experience going in.

"True" 9-6s paying ~$100k are like the holy grail on TLS. They tend to be just as elusive for new grads. It's more realistic (though still not guaranteed) to either start in a more demanding job, then try to snag one of these cushier gigs 5-10 years out, or start in a cushy gig, and slowly work one's way up the salary ladder, again over 5-10 years.


I should have been more precise - the 40 hour workweek + six or nearly six figures scenario from OP is what I was referring to. That’s why I said I don’t think it really exists without grinding for years. If you’re ok making very little, then maybe (tbh I’m at the point where I wouldn’t believe any employer that promised a hard cap at 40 hours, but I recognize I’m being a little cynical). Otherwise, I don’t think that exists without years of grinding, as you say.

And not for nothing, but while we’re on the subject, whatever happened to a paid lunch? Seems like that’s not a thing for this generation. #salty

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QContinuum

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Re: Deciding if the Law is for me: Work-Life Balance after Law School

Postby QContinuum » Wed Dec 04, 2019 7:44 pm

Halp wrote:I should have been more precise - the 40 hour workweek + six or nearly six figures scenario from OP is what I was referring to. That’s why I said I don’t think it really exists without grinding for years. If you’re ok making very little, then maybe (tbh I’m at the point where I wouldn’t believe any employer that promised a hard cap at 40 hours, but I recognize I’m being a little cynical). Otherwise, I don’t think that exists without years of grinding, as you say.

Yes, 100% agree! Also share your skepticism about a "hard" 40-hour cap. I think that's a thing of the past, unfortunately. Just about every well-paying job these days - legal or not - requires some degree of off-hours work. It's the curse of technology making it so easy to work remotely.

Halp wrote:And not for nothing, but while we’re on the subject, whatever happened to a paid lunch? Seems like that’s not a thing for this generation. #salty

I know. :( I mean, forget a paid lunch, I'd be happy with unpaid lunch! All of my friends (and me) seem to regularly be expected to work right through lunch. It's crazy. Since when did three meals a day become optional??

MohawkMonk87

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Re: Deciding if the Law is for me: Work-Life Balance after Law School

Postby MohawkMonk87 » Fri Dec 06, 2019 4:54 pm

Thanks for the replies everyone. I am currently weighing the JD option against full time military chaplaincy and NP level nursing, both of which seem better for work-life balance though I have other reservations for those options. Again thank you for the honesty, better to learn these things now rather than as a 2/3L!

QContinuum

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Re: Deciding if the Law is for me: Work-Life Balance after Law School

Postby QContinuum » Fri Dec 06, 2019 8:31 pm

MohawkMonk87 wrote:Thanks for the replies everyone. I am currently weighing the JD option against full time military chaplaincy and NP level nursing, both of which seem better for work-life balance though I have other reservations for those options. Again thank you for the honesty, better to learn these things now rather than as a 2/3L!

Happy to help. I'd strongly encourage you - and I think most of TLS would join me in this - to pick the field you actually want to work in, be it chaplaincy, nursing or law. These are three extremely different career paths, and I would encourage you to choose based on what you're actually passionate about, not based on which path you think would have easier hours. If you dislike what you're doing, even a "decent" job with "decent" hours could easily become draining and soul-deadening. You don't want to wake up Monday morning dreading the thought of treating another patient, counseling another penitent, or reviewing another contract.

(And if, upon further reflection, you realize you're not actually passionate about chaplaincy, nursing or lawyering, there's nothing wrong with that! There are many other options out there beyond these three.)

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Re: Deciding if the Law is for me: Work-Life Balance after Law School

Postby Halp » Fri Dec 06, 2019 11:04 pm

QContinuum wrote:
MohawkMonk87 wrote:Thanks for the replies everyone. I am currently weighing the JD option against full time military chaplaincy and NP level nursing, both of which seem better for work-life balance though I have other reservations for those options. Again thank you for the honesty, better to learn these things now rather than as a 2/3L!

Happy to help. I'd strongly encourage you - and I think most of TLS would join me in this - to pick the field you actually want to work in, be it chaplaincy, nursing or law. These are three extremely different career paths, and I would encourage you to choose based on what you're actually passionate about, not based on which path you think would have easier hours. If you dislike what you're doing, even a "decent" job with "decent" hours could easily become draining and soul-deadening. You don't want to wake up Monday morning dreading the thought of treating another patient, counseling another penitent, or reviewing another contract.

(And if, upon further reflection, you realize you're not actually passionate about chaplaincy, nursing or lawyering, there's nothing wrong with that! There are many other options out there beyond these three.)


Cannot agree strongly enough. As long as you can put food on the table doing it, pursue something you want to do. (If nothing you want to do puts food in the table...I guess law is fine but go into it with open eyes about the hours and lifestyle haha.)

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FND

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Re: Deciding if the Law is for me: Work-Life Balance after Law School

Postby FND » Tue Jan 14, 2020 8:32 pm

Have you considered JAG?

As a side note, there are plenty of legal jobs that offer a work-life balance. If you can get full tuition off Yellow Ribbon, and don't mind living in some small to medium town in flyover country, you can make a decent living working decent hours. I have plenty of lawyer-friends in places like Oklahoma, the Dakotas, eastern Oregon, etc. who work a relatively low-stress 40 hours per week.

But this board is "top-law-schools", and is geared toward the upper echelon, T14 schools, biglaw in major markets, Article III clerkships, etc. That covers roughly 10% of all law school students/graduates nationwide.

If you're ok living and working in a smaller town for a smaller paycheck, the advice is very different than what you see here. Being eligible for no tuition also makes it a different conversation.
Still, keep in mind that the state flagship law school in some of these states can't place even half their graduates into real lawyer jobs, so it can be very risky.

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cub1014

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Re: Deciding if the Law is for me: Work-Life Balance after Law School

Postby cub1014 » Thu Jan 16, 2020 9:42 pm

Halp wrote:Young lawyer here. Others may differ, but based on my experience, no, I don’t think a legal job with great work life balance exists (at least not without grinding for literal years first). Also, to the extent these positions do exist, it’s hard to find them (government jobs will claim to be cushy hours but then not be, etc).

Someone please tell me I’m wrong...so that I can go get this job lol. I legit haven’t found it yet...


I am in one of these jobs OP is describing. Big fed regulatory work 8:30 to 5 / 9-5:30 with an hour lunch straight out of law school along with the salary described. All work stays in the office and never comes home. They do exist. It's just a very rare outcome.

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