Lawyer Hours

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mormondem32
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Lawyer Hours

Postby mormondem32 » Sun Oct 19, 2008 4:46 pm

While I want to pursue a career in law, I find most joy and satisfaction in life through spending time with friends, and especially family. Unfortunately, research I have done suggests that as a lawyer I would typically find myself working 70-80+ hours a week to keep my billable hours up to par. This is unappealing given that I would prefer working 60 or less hours a week.

Is it possible to have a career in law while still having a decent family and social life? Do certain sectors have more flexible hours that allow for this?

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dresq
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Re: Lawyer Hours

Postby dresq » Sun Oct 19, 2008 4:49 pm

mormondem32 wrote:While I want to pursue a career in law, I find most joy and satisfaction in life through spending time with friends, and especially family. Unfortunately, research I have done suggests that as a lawyer I would typically find myself working 70-80+ hours a week to keep my billable hours up to par. This is unappealing given that I would prefer working 60 or less hours a week.

Is it possible to have a career in law while still having a decent family and social life? Do certain sectors have more flexible hours that allow for this?


Government, for one.

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DelDad
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Re: Lawyer Hours

Postby DelDad » Sun Oct 19, 2008 5:20 pm

If your goal is 60ish hours per week, with occasional weeks busier than that, you certainly can find firms where this is possible. Not often at New York market rate ($160/yr), but easily at $145/yr. If you go to one of these firms in a secondary market, you may find that the cost of living reduction more than makes up for the lower salary.

If your goal is 40 hours per week, a firm job (even at a small firm) is probably not the way to go.

Clerking has really good hours, and is a great first legal job, although the pay is obviosly not good. (If you work for a year at a firm, and then clerk for a fed judge, the clerking pay is almost doubled, about 92K; a good option if you try a firm job and decide it's not for you.)
Last edited by DelDad on Sun Oct 19, 2008 8:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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mormondem32
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Re: Lawyer Hours

Postby mormondem32 » Sun Oct 19, 2008 7:41 pm

My goal is public interest/ international human rights law. What are the hours like in those sectors?

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DelDad
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Re: Lawyer Hours

Postby DelDad » Sun Oct 19, 2008 8:11 pm

I'm not in those sectors, so I don't know for sure. But, in both those fields you aren't really worried about billables, per se. The hours may be long nonetheless, however, when you are working on something big (although probably still less hours overall than a biglaw sweatshop). Best to talk to someone at your local ACLU office to find out for sure.

bigben
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Re: Lawyer Hours

Postby bigben » Sun Oct 19, 2008 9:23 pm

"Public interest" can be used to refer to about 80 different types of jobs, most of which pay somewhere between zero dollars and 35-40k a year. Generally, the best ones are on the lower end of that spectrum. I'd like to do some public interest sometime, but probably only in some sort of semi-retirement when I have the experience to actually do something. "International Human Rights" exists as a sector of employment to roughly the same extent as "Star Trek trivia expert" exists as a sector of employment.

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bgc
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Re: Lawyer Hours

Postby bgc » Sun Oct 19, 2008 9:29 pm

bigben wrote: "Star Trek trivia expert" exists as a sector of employment.


So competitive. Don't even bother if you are not fluent in Klingon AND Romulan.

jrod
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Re: Lawyer Hours

Postby jrod » Sun Oct 19, 2008 10:12 pm

I interned at a public interest firm in nyc for a few months this spring. Most lawyers were there from around 9-6, with about 20% there till 8 or so, roughly.

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Other25BeforeYou
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Re: Lawyer Hours

Postby Other25BeforeYou » Sun Oct 19, 2008 11:45 pm

The two lawyers I know well work about forty hours a week. One has his own firm, and the other is a NYS supreme court judge's clerk.

bigben
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Re: Lawyer Hours

Postby bigben » Sun Oct 19, 2008 11:51 pm

There was a TLS user who wrote a blog that absolutely everyone should read. Here is one of the posts:

Can I become a lawyer and still have a life?

viewtopic.php?f=11&t=18621#p328107

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mormondem32
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Re: Lawyer Hours

Postby mormondem32 » Mon Oct 20, 2008 6:14 pm

Are most of you planning on working 70+ hours then?

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Other25BeforeYou
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Re: Lawyer Hours

Postby Other25BeforeYou » Mon Oct 20, 2008 6:59 pm

mormondem32 wrote:Are most of you planning on working 70+ hours then?


Hell no. 40-50 max, except with big cases I would probably work more.

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DelDad
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Re: Lawyer Hours

Postby DelDad » Mon Oct 20, 2008 7:16 pm

For a professional, lawyer or not, IMO, 40 hours at full pay is somewhat unrealistic - just based on my experience. Even as a teacher I worked more than 40 hours per week. OTOH, for someone who wants a life outside of work, 80 hours is unrealistic, IMO. (When my wife was a resident in ObGyn, she worked 120 hours many weeks, and that almost killed us).

There are jobs, even in law, in between those extremes, and I've taken one of them (or at least taken the summer associate position that I hope will lead to one of them if I do a good job.).

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Re: Lawyer Hours

Postby bigben » Mon Oct 20, 2008 7:39 pm

Personally, I plan on being a family man. Nothing takes priority over that. I don't have any kids yet but I probably will soon. That said, I also plan on working hard. It doesn't matter what profession or business we are talking about, you are always going to have to put in a lot of grunt work up front to break into the higher levels. I see breaking into those higher levels not as an end in itself, but a means to the end of providing for a family, which requires a surprisingly large amount of money nowadays. A lot of work up front will yield dividends in the long run: better family life, and even more free time.

I plan on doing biglaw for just a few years to pay off debt, save some cash, and gain experience. Biglaw is widely considered a great way to start your career because it offers excellent training in how to practice law (No, they don't teach you that in law school), and it also yields other job opportunities that offer a higher QOL (fewer hours) and yet pay a decent salary (more than 35k).

Where I will go from there I'm not sure yet. Lateraling into a mid-size law firm in a smaller city can get you fewer hours but still great salary, since you will be more experienced at that point. Other than that there are gov't jobs, which I don't know much about yet. There are also in-house positions where you work for a company, work probably 40 hr weeks and make a good salary (I think some start around 80k?). I'm still learning more about the opportunities. There is also academia (being a law prof), which I think would be cool, but that is a hard nut to crack.

PS. I'm pretty sure that most biglaw firms don't require 70 hr weeks year round, except maybe some higher ranked NYC firms (*shudder*)

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mormondem32
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Re: Lawyer Hours

Postby mormondem32 » Wed Oct 22, 2008 12:49 am

Other25BeforeYou wrote:
Hell no. 40-50 max, except with big cases I would probably work more.
How are you planning to pull that off?

bigben wrote:Personally, I plan on being a family man. Nothing takes priority over that. I don't have any kids yet but I probably will soon. That said, I also plan on working hard. It doesn't matter what profession or business we are talking about, you are always going to have to put in a lot of grunt work up front to break into the higher levels. I see breaking into those higher levels not as an end in itself, but a means to the end of providing for a family, which requires a surprisingly large amount of money nowadays. A lot of work up front will yield dividends in the long run: better family life, and even more free time.

I plan on doing biglaw for just a few years to pay off debt, save some cash, and gain experience. Biglaw is widely considered a great way to start your career because it offers excellent training in how to practice law (No, they don't teach you that in law school), and it also yields other job opportunities that offer a higher QOL (fewer hours) and yet pay a decent salary (more than 35k).

Where I will go from there I'm not sure yet. Lateraling into a mid-size law firm in a smaller city can get you fewer hours but still great salary, since you will be more experienced at that point. Other than that there are gov't jobs, which I don't know much about yet. There are also in-house positions where you work for a company, work probably 40 hr weeks and make a good salary (I think some start around 80k?). I'm still learning more about the opportunities. There is also academia (being a law prof), which I think would be cool, but that is a hard nut to crack.

PS. I'm pretty sure that most biglaw firms don't require 70 hr weeks year round, except maybe some higher ranked NYC firms (*shudder*)
I hear you. Teaching law would actually probably be my ideal job. At this point I am still debating between going for a PhD and going to law school. I don't mind working 60-70 hours a week while i build up cred, I just don't want to do it for more than a few years. If you aren't aiming for big firm life, is it still worth it to go for a top 10 or even top 20 law school?

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Other25BeforeYou
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Re: Lawyer Hours

Postby Other25BeforeYou » Wed Oct 22, 2008 1:17 am

mormondem32 wrote:
Other25BeforeYou wrote:
Hell no. 40-50 max, except with big cases I would probably work more.
How are you planning to pull that off?



I guess I shouldn't really say that, since I'm not sure what I'm going to be doing. But the law firm I work at now wants me to come back and work for them once I've graduated law school, and it probably wouldn't be more than 50 hours a week. It's a laid back place.

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uvalaw4l
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Re: Lawyer Hours

Postby uvalaw4l » Wed Oct 22, 2008 10:57 am

bigben wrote:Personally, I plan on being a family man. Nothing takes priority over that. I don't have any kids yet but I probably will soon. That said, I also plan on working hard. It doesn't matter what profession or business we are talking about, you are always going to have to put in a lot of grunt work up front to break into the higher levels. I see breaking into those higher levels not as an end in itself, but a means to the end of providing for a family, which requires a surprisingly large amount of money nowadays. A lot of work up front will yield dividends in the long run: better family life, and even more free time.

I plan on doing biglaw for just a few years to pay off debt, save some cash, and gain experience. Biglaw is widely considered a great way to start your career because it offers excellent training in how to practice law (No, they don't teach you that in law school), and it also yields other job opportunities that offer a higher QOL (fewer hours) and yet pay a decent salary (more than 35k).

Where I will go from there I'm not sure yet. Lateraling into a mid-size law firm in a smaller city can get you fewer hours but still great salary, since you will be more experienced at that point. Other than that there are gov't jobs, which I don't know much about yet. There are also in-house positions where you work for a company, work probably 40 hr weeks and make a good salary (I think some start around 80k?). I'm still learning more about the opportunities. There is also academia (being a law prof), which I think would be cool, but that is a hard nut to crack.

PS. I'm pretty sure that most biglaw firms don't require 70 hr weeks year round, except maybe some higher ranked NYC firms (*shudder*)


Just a few things:

In-house sounds perfect for you. Average in-house lawyer makes $260K a year, at the larger companies. The best way to get one of these jobs is to start out with a big firm and, once you're there a few years, start working on the same company's matters. If they get to know you well, there's a good chance they will offer you a job. Some firms will even help you move in-house if you really want to; if you're leaving anyways, the firm can't make you stay and they'd rather you be in a position that's helpful to the firm. The hours are much better, but it's no 9-5. I'd say 50 hours isn't too far off the mark.

There may be a good biglaw firm for you. There are so many these days that are family friendly - look at Working Mother's magazine. They pick the top 50 family-friendly firms every year. These firms let you work from home, let you work part-time, let you take the most time off when a baby's born (yes, daddies too), offer on-site daycare, etc. As a woman, having time for my (future) kids is really important and I'm at a biglaw firm that really respects family time. I'll still have to make some sacrifices, but it's by and far better than the average biglaw firm.

Last thing, biglaw's not really considered the best way to start practice if you want to be a good lawyer :) Most young associates in biglaw firms don't handle cases or have client contact; those training programs are good, but necessary since you aren't getting any practical experience. At smaller law firms, it can often be trial by fire. You get much more responsibility right away.
Last edited by uvalaw4l on Wed Oct 22, 2008 2:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.

bigben
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Re: Lawyer Hours

Postby bigben » Wed Oct 22, 2008 2:00 pm

Thanks for the insights, uva. I should mention that I am just regurgitating what others have said. It's great to hear from someone who actually has first hand experience.

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pleasetryagain
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Re: Lawyer Hours

Postby pleasetryagain » Wed Oct 22, 2008 2:47 pm

.
Last edited by pleasetryagain on Mon Aug 10, 2009 10:39 am, edited 1 time in total.

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uvalaw4l
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Re: Lawyer Hours

Postby uvalaw4l » Wed Oct 22, 2008 2:52 pm

DCD wrote:question for uva since she seems to be in the know (or anyone else that can answer).

You say that on average the work week for an in house guy is 50 hours/week. How much of this is actual work and how much is "work" meaning glad handing clients, taking them to lunch, reading drudgereport, etc? How much time is spent in the office? How is this different in regards to biglaw firms?


Sorry, I don't know much about in-house. I just remember an abovethelaw article about how much they make. I have a good friend who's a 6th year attorney and she just went in-house for a hospital; I'm going to lunch with her soon and maybe I'll know more then :)

When you work in-house, the company you work for IS the client so you don't have to worry about business development or getting a book of business. And from what I understand, you have set hours rather than a billable hour requirement. This is the opposite of my (and most) firms; no set hours but I need to make 2000 billables.

bigben
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Re: Lawyer Hours

Postby bigben » Wed Oct 22, 2008 3:24 pm

Uva, what do you think the average rate of efficiency is for most attorneys from the time you walk into the office to the time you walk out? Do you work from home ever?

For example, 2000 billables / 50 weeks = 40 billables/wk

At 80% efficiency, 40/.8 = 50 hrs/wk on average over the year

That seems too good to be true so how about this:

60% efficiency, 40/.6 = 67 hrs/wk on average over the year. yikes!


Thoughts?

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uvalaw4l
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Re: Lawyer Hours

Postby uvalaw4l » Wed Oct 22, 2008 3:47 pm

bigben wrote:Uva, what do you think the average rate of efficiency is for most attorneys from the time you walk into the office to the time you walk out? Do you work from home ever?
For example, 2000 billables / 50 weeks = 40 billables/wk
At 80% efficiency, 40/.8 = 50 hrs/wk on average over the year
That seems too good to be true so how about this:
60% efficiency, 40/.6 = 67 hrs/wk on average over the year. yikes!
Thoughts?


This made me laugh because my efficiency rate is about 25% right now. No joke. I just don't have a ton to do because I'm new so I'm in no rush to hurry up. Hence, 20+ average posts per day on TLS.

It's hard to say because you might be doing real work - just not billable work. Recruiting and interviewing takes up quite a bit of time during flyback season. I can't imagine how bad it is during the summer. Many attorneys work on CLE presentations; none of that is billable. Going to CLEs isn't billable. Training isn't billable. So that'll lower your efficiency even if you aren't goofing off. That being said, I think 70% isn't too far off the mark, which is around 55 hours a week - about what I see around here.

Yes, I've worked from home because I had an assignment given to me on Friday that was due Monday. I can log onto work's system from home and access any file or email. I've worked from home during the day because I was lazy and didn't want to go back in after lunch - they have this awesome computer program that routes calls from your work extension to my home phone (basically call forwarding) BUT if I call any work extension from my home phone, it shows up on the other person's phone as though I'm calling from within my office. Voice mails are converted to emails, so I can also check messages from my Blackberry. It's easy to work from home these days.

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mormondem32
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Re: Lawyer Hours

Postby mormondem32 » Wed Oct 22, 2008 6:55 pm

Is it harder for men to land jobs at these family friendly firms?

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uvalaw4l
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Re: Lawyer Hours

Postby uvalaw4l » Wed Oct 22, 2008 7:11 pm

EDIT: NOT AT ALL. These firms aren't random boutiques - they're Vault ranked, legit firms. The whole point of these programs is that there aren't enough women in these law firms and so the firms are trying to find ways to get them to stay.
Last edited by uvalaw4l on Wed Oct 22, 2008 7:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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mormondem32
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Re: Lawyer Hours

Postby mormondem32 » Wed Oct 22, 2008 7:12 pm

Well that sucks




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