Why BigLaw Sucks?

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Helmholtz
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Re: WHY BIGLAW SUCKS.

Postby Helmholtz » Thu Aug 04, 2011 2:14 pm

Partner at V50 firm I talked to two days ago: "Law students think that attorneys work way harder than they actually do." On the other hand, he did bemoan the inconsistency of hours and work, which was already discussed in this thread, and cited it as the worst thing about the job.

alumniguy
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Re: WHY BIGLAW SUCKS.

Postby alumniguy » Thu Aug 04, 2011 2:17 pm

albanach wrote:
alumniguy wrote:If you don't mind inconsistency and the lack of ability to plan a life outside of work on a consistent basis, you shouldn't have a problem then at least with the inconsistency part. I found that talking to my fellow associates, that the unpredictability is the biggest issue that juniors face.


Out of curiosity, how much of the need this done now type of work can be done at home. For example, if you're visiting family at Christmas and the Blackberry goes beep, are you more likely to be stuck in your hotel room working or more likely to be getting on a plane to NY?


As usual, it really is dependent on partners/practice groups. In my experience (and the experience of my friends at other firms), if you are on vacation and away, you work remotely unless the firm tells you otherwise (which I don't know of one example of someone being called back to the firm). From a transactional perspective, technology has allowed for associates to do the work anywhere. The only time I could see an associate needing to be back at the office is for a closing (but if you were on vacation you would have already lined someone up to cover you).

For more run of the mill late night/weekend work, it is mostly done from home. On a few occasions I'll felt compelled to go to the office because the partner/counsel stated they would be in the office. If it is just a senior associate though, I typically work from home.

Expanding on the unpredictability front, firms seem to be fine with associates working remotely so long as it isn't abused and you actually are working remotely. If you are not feeling well for the day, you work remotely (at least at my firm). If it is the weekend, you are not expected to be in the office despite the fact that you may be expected to work. Partners generally are not coming to the office on the weekends.

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Samara
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Re: WHY BIGLAW SUCKS.

Postby Samara » Thu Aug 04, 2011 2:18 pm

albanach wrote:
alumniguy wrote:If you don't mind inconsistency and the lack of ability to plan a life outside of work on a consistent basis, you shouldn't have a problem then at least with the inconsistency part. I found that talking to my fellow associates, that the unpredictability is the biggest issue that juniors face.


Out of curiosity, how much of the need this done now type of work can be done at home. For example, if you're visiting family at Christmas and the Blackberry goes beep, are you more likely to be stuck in your hotel room working or more likely to be getting on a plane to NY?

Rayiner, in your Grand Central example, when you're told at noon that you have to have a task done by "tonight," are you expected to stay in the office until it is completed, or could you have picked up your girlfriend and then returned to work to finish?

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Samara
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Re: WHY BIGLAW SUCKS.

Postby Samara » Thu Aug 04, 2011 2:24 pm

alumniguy wrote:For more run of the mill late night/weekend work, it is mostly done from home. On a few occasions I'll felt compelled to go to the office because the partner/counsel stated they would be in the office. If it is just a senior associate though, I typically work from home.

Expanding on the unpredictability front, firms seem to be fine with associates working remotely so long as it isn't abused and you actually are working remotely. If you are not feeling well for the day, you work remotely (at least at my firm). If it is the weekend, you are not expected to be in the office despite the fact that you may be expected to work. Partners generally are not coming to the office on the weekends.

This ability to work from home seems like it would alleviate a lot of home life conflicts with working long or consistent hours. For my wife, me working long hours is much more palatable to her when I'm able to do it at home. I used to work a job that for certain months out of the year that had unpredictable and long hours. It was nothing like biglaw sounds like it is, but working 60+ hours in a week or staying until midnight was not uncommon. Those long evenings or weekends were way better on those rare occasions that I was able to work from home.

alumniguy
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Re: WHY BIGLAW SUCKS.

Postby alumniguy » Thu Aug 04, 2011 2:26 pm

rayiner wrote:I definitely understand the dangers of not knowing full-well what you're getting into. I just suppose that my impression from TLS was that NYC biglawers work banker hours where they're chronically sleep-deprived. The only associates I see that consistently look like that are the ones that have young kids. Most people seem way more chipper than the folks at the startup I worked at.

Maybe my classmates have a rosier view of what the work/life balance is going to be, who knows. The friends I have at school who are on the biglaw track came from finance/consulting, so I might have a skewed view of what people expect.


Yea, this is one of the TLS inaccuracies. Most associates don't work banker hours consistently. There may be a few bad months, but at my firm overworked lawyers are typically given a slight reprieve after massive deals close (at least for a short period of time).

With that being said, some attorneys truly do work banker hours, but those associates are not the norm.

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rayiner
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Re: WHY BIGLAW SUCKS.

Postby rayiner » Thu Aug 04, 2011 2:34 pm

Samara wrote:
albanach wrote:
alumniguy wrote:If you don't mind inconsistency and the lack of ability to plan a life outside of work on a consistent basis, you shouldn't have a problem then at least with the inconsistency part. I found that talking to my fellow associates, that the unpredictability is the biggest issue that juniors face.


Out of curiosity, how much of the need this done now type of work can be done at home. For example, if you're visiting family at Christmas and the Blackberry goes beep, are you more likely to be stuck in your hotel room working or more likely to be getting on a plane to NY?

Rayiner, in your Grand Central example, when you're told at noon that you have to have a task done by "tonight," are you expected to stay in the office until it is completed, or could you have picked up your girlfriend and then returned to work to finish?


It's a judgment call. In that particular scenario the later the associate had to send something out, so the later I got it to her the longer she'd have to be in the office that night. Plus, she liked to do things over the phone rather than e-mail and would call my office extension. On the other hand there are more routine deadlines where the associate might ask for something and he doesn't care what you do in the meantime as long as you get it to him on time.

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rayiner
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Re: WHY BIGLAW SUCKS.

Postby rayiner » Thu Aug 04, 2011 2:36 pm

alumniguy wrote:
rayiner wrote:I definitely understand the dangers of not knowing full-well what you're getting into. I just suppose that my impression from TLS was that NYC biglawers work banker hours where they're chronically sleep-deprived. The only associates I see that consistently look like that are the ones that have young kids. Most people seem way more chipper than the folks at the startup I worked at.

Maybe my classmates have a rosier view of what the work/life balance is going to be, who knows. The friends I have at school who are on the biglaw track came from finance/consulting, so I might have a skewed view of what people expect.


Yea, this is one of the TLS inaccuracies. Most associates don't work banker hours consistently. There may be a few bad months, but at my firm overworked lawyers are typically given a slight reprieve after massive deals close (at least for a short period of time).

With that being said, some attorneys truly do work banker hours, but those associates are not the norm.


In your experience what folks tend to work the longest hours? Is it certain people, or certain practice areas?

alumniguy
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Re: WHY BIGLAW SUCKS.

Postby alumniguy » Thu Aug 04, 2011 2:36 pm

Samara wrote:
alumniguy wrote:For more run of the mill late night/weekend work, it is mostly done from home. On a few occasions I'll felt compelled to go to the office because the partner/counsel stated they would be in the office. If it is just a senior associate though, I typically work from home.

Expanding on the unpredictability front, firms seem to be fine with associates working remotely so long as it isn't abused and you actually are working remotely. If you are not feeling well for the day, you work remotely (at least at my firm). If it is the weekend, you are not expected to be in the office despite the fact that you may be expected to work. Partners generally are not coming to the office on the weekends.

This ability to work from home seems like it would alleviate a lot of home life conflicts with working long or consistent hours. For my wife, me working long hours is much more palatable to her when I'm able to do it at home. I used to work a job that for certain months out of the year that had unpredictable and long hours. It was nothing like biglaw sounds like it is, but working 60+ hours in a week or staying until midnight was not uncommon. Those long evenings or weekends were way better on those rare occasions that I was able to work from home.


Certainly, working from home alleviates some work/life balance, but in my experience working form home equated to working just as hard at home. Sure you can eat dinner with a significant other, but you aren't going to be taking regular 15 minute breaks to chat. I've found that working from home typically occurs when there is a non-time sensitive assignment to do and you simply want to get out of the office but have so much work that you need to get a few more items crossed off the checklist before the next day. If the assignment is time sensitive and I would be working non-stop at home, then I would rather just get the assignment done at the office where I am undoubtedly more efficient before going home.

For weekends, I've found working at home to be much more enjoyable because you can take those 15 minute breaks and watch espn or do laundry or take a walk around the block - all things that I don't typically do at the office.

Regarding the GCT example you posed to rayiner, my guess is that he could have went to pick up his girlfriend, but that would just delay him getting out of there and starting his weekend. If the assignment needs to be done by Friday night, that generally means the senior associate/partner wants to look at it over the weekend. Here in lies the crux of the issue though, you were told to get the assignment done by Friday night and do you really want to be that associate getting it to the partner at 8pm on a Friday instead of 6pm. It likely doesn't matter (as I indicated above), but most associates would strive to get it done earlier rather than later.

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Samara
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Re: WHY BIGLAW SUCKS.

Postby Samara » Thu Aug 04, 2011 2:41 pm

Thanks for the responses. That all makes sense and makes biglaw sound like a much more reasonable place to work than the hyperbole suggests. (Which I always suspected was the case.) Obviously, one won't always be able to make everything fit nicely, but having the ability to be flexible when I reasonably can is a big perk for me.

alumniguy
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Re: WHY BIGLAW SUCKS.

Postby alumniguy » Thu Aug 04, 2011 2:49 pm

rayiner wrote:In your experience what folks tend to work the longest hours? Is it certain people, or certain practice areas?


I think the answer is cyclical and each group will work long hours depending on the macro environment. Prior to the bust, real estate was booming and those associates at my firm were routinely working long hours. Just after the bust, bankruptcy blew up (although right now it has slowed down). Right now capital markets, M&A and finance seem to be pretty busy. Litigation generally is pretty constant (but depends on a firm's particular case flow). And on a more micro level, smaller groups tend to be more apt to periods of intense work because they are typically staffed more lean than the bigger groups where attrition is more of an issue and don't have the ability to spread work levels accordingly.

Again, it will undoubtedly vary by firm. M&A, bankruptcy and capital markets tend to more difficult on the work/life balance because of the way those practices are set up (both M&A and capital markets typically want deals done ASAP and have short turnaround times and bankruptcy is often fast-track litigation with compressed timelines). More predictable practices are tax, L&E, and other "support" groups.

As a general rule, the firms bread and butter practices are probably more likely to work longer/more unpredictable hours then secondary practice areas.

alumniguy
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Re: WHY BIGLAW SUCKS.

Postby alumniguy » Thu Aug 04, 2011 2:51 pm

Samara wrote:Thanks for the responses. That all makes sense and makes biglaw sound like a much more reasonable place to work than the hyperbole suggests. (Which I always suspected was the case.) Obviously, one won't always be able to make everything fit nicely, but having the ability to be flexible when I reasonably can is a big perk for me.


If this is an big issue for you, I would certainly ask the associates at your firm which practice groups are known to have less face time requirements. It certainly varies at my firm tremendously. Some groups don't care (and even encourage) whether associates work remotely, but in other groups the practice is discouraged.

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rayiner
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Re: WHY BIGLAW SUCKS.

Postby rayiner » Thu Aug 04, 2011 2:52 pm

alumniguy wrote:
rayiner wrote:In your experience what folks tend to work the longest hours? Is it certain people, or certain practice areas?


I think the answer is cyclical and each group will work long hours depending on the macro environment. Prior to the bust, real estate was booming and those associates at my firm were routinely working long hours. Just after the bust, bankruptcy blew up (although right now it has slowed down). Right now capital markets, M&A and finance seem to be pretty busy. Litigation generally is pretty constant (but depends on a firm's particular case flow). And on a more micro level, smaller groups tend to be more apt to periods of intense work because they are typically staffed more lean than the bigger groups where attrition is more of an issue and don't have the ability to spread work levels accordingly.

Again, it will undoubtedly vary by firm. M&A, bankruptcy and capital markets tend to more difficult on the work/life balance because of the way those practices are set up (both M&A and capital markets typically want deals done ASAP and have short turnaround times and bankruptcy is often fast-track litigation with compressed timelines). More predictable practices are tax, L&E, and other "support" groups.

As a general rule, the firms bread and butter practices are probably more likely to work longer/more unpredictable hours then secondary practice areas.


Thanks!

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Samara
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Re: WHY BIGLAW SUCKS.

Postby Samara » Thu Aug 04, 2011 2:54 pm

alumniguy wrote:
Samara wrote:Thanks for the responses. That all makes sense and makes biglaw sound like a much more reasonable place to work than the hyperbole suggests. (Which I always suspected was the case.) Obviously, one won't always be able to make everything fit nicely, but having the ability to be flexible when I reasonably can is a big perk for me.


If this is an big issue for you, I would certainly ask the associates at your firm which practice groups are known to have less face time requirements. It certainly varies at my firm tremendously. Some groups don't care (and even encourage) whether associates work remotely, but in other groups the practice is discouraged.

That's a good idea. Do you know if there is a place that has that kind of information? Lateral Link? NALP? I'm still just a 0L, haha, so this is a ways down the road, but I've been trying to do some research on career options so that I can maximize the resources offered and law school and be prepared.

alumniguy
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Re: WHY BIGLAW SUCKS.

Postby alumniguy » Thu Aug 04, 2011 3:01 pm

Samara wrote:
alumniguy wrote:
Samara wrote:Thanks for the responses. That all makes sense and makes biglaw sound like a much more reasonable place to work than the hyperbole suggests. (Which I always suspected was the case.) Obviously, one won't always be able to make everything fit nicely, but having the ability to be flexible when I reasonably can is a big perk for me.


If this is an big issue for you, I would certainly ask the associates at your firm which practice groups are known to have less face time requirements. It certainly varies at my firm tremendously. Some groups don't care (and even encourage) whether associates work remotely, but in other groups the practice is discouraged.

That's a good idea. Do you know if there is a place that has that kind of information? Lateral Link? NALP? I'm still just a 0L, haha, so this is a ways down the road, but I've been trying to do some research on career options so that I can maximize the resources offered and law school and be prepared.


My guess is that NALP isn't going to help. I would focus on ATL's career center and Chambers Associates (and even vault) as those places aggregate surveys from actual attorneys. It also makes sense to look at firm's recruitment websites as I suppose a number of them would highlight the lengths to which the go to ensure there is work/life balance. Also, firms that don't seat attorneys by practice group probably have more balanced remote working philosophies as these firms tend not to operate on as much of a face to face level as those firms where groups sit together (this is complete conjecture on my part, but it intuitively makes sense to me).

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Samara
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Re: WHY BIGLAW SUCKS.

Postby Samara » Thu Aug 04, 2011 3:20 pm

alumniguy wrote:
Samara wrote:
alumniguy wrote:
Samara wrote:Thanks for the responses. That all makes sense and makes biglaw sound like a much more reasonable place to work than the hyperbole suggests. (Which I always suspected was the case.) Obviously, one won't always be able to make everything fit nicely, but having the ability to be flexible when I reasonably can is a big perk for me.


If this is an big issue for you, I would certainly ask the associates at your firm which practice groups are known to have less face time requirements. It certainly varies at my firm tremendously. Some groups don't care (and even encourage) whether associates work remotely, but in other groups the practice is discouraged.

That's a good idea. Do you know if there is a place that has that kind of information? Lateral Link? NALP? I'm still just a 0L, haha, so this is a ways down the road, but I've been trying to do some research on career options so that I can maximize the resources offered and law school and be prepared.


My guess is that NALP isn't going to help. I would focus on ATL's career center and Chambers Associates (and even vault) as those places aggregate surveys from actual attorneys. It also makes sense to look at firm's recruitment websites as I suppose a number of them would highlight the lengths to which the go to ensure there is work/life balance. Also, firms that don't seat attorneys by practice group probably have more balanced remote working philosophies as these firms tend not to operate on as much of a face to face level as those firms where groups sit together (this is complete conjecture on my part, but it intuitively makes sense to me).

Thanks for the info!

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The Valkyrie
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Re: WHY BIGLAW SUCKS.

Postby The Valkyrie » Thu Aug 04, 2011 3:37 pm

I could never handle biglaw.




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