Forwardandonward wrote:Hi! I'm looking for advice about the Dallas legal market... What decent options are there for someone not interested in big law? I'm in my mid-30s, married with two kids. I can't sell my life away after graduation, despite the alluring salary and prestige of big law.
There are a number of small and mid-size firms in Dallas. However, the quality of those firms and whether or not working there will be awful isn't something you'll be able to find out or research much. If you have Sumner's numbers, you'll likely do well at law school (and SMU generally puts forth specialized efforts to ensure Sumner's people do well), which would likely give you access to regional Biglaw - think Winstead or other similar firms. In that case, you'll still work hard, but not like you would at a Baker Botts or H&B.
Forwardandonward wrote:Also, I've been working in journalism for the last decade and developed an interest in social/criminal justice, government policy and civil rights, and I have no interest in representing big companies or transactional law.
Litigation without representing bigger companies is almost certainly going to be criminal work / slip and fall / traffic accidents / family law. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but it won't be the world's most exciting work. Also, pretty much everyone I know from my class who works in litigation despises it and would jump ship to a transactional practice in a split second.
Forwardandonward wrote:An ideal job would be at a mid-size firm where opportunities exist to argue in the courtroom, perhaps in civil rights litigation (does this even exist in Dallas?!!). How much would something like that pay, with what expected rate of growth? And would there be a work/life balance?
You can forget about civil rights work unless you want to work for Legal Aid or something like that. If you want to go the Legal Aid route, you'll get a remarkably low salary but it will come with less hours. I hear a lot of people use the phrase "work/life balance" and here's the thing: it's either money or less work time. It depends on your definitions of things, but any job with a decent salary ($80,000+) is going to require you to work more. It is not and never will be 9-5 regularly. Clients need work done, regardless of who the client is, and you're expected to do it in a timely manner. Sometimes that means working nights and weekends if you get buried. Just the way it is. If you're looking for a real 9-5 job, then either don't go to law school, or be OK with a $50,000 or less salary for some time.
I would say my job has a good "work/life balance" as compared to Biglaw folks - I don't generally have to work nights, and I can avoid weekend work most days. I also tend to work 10-12 hours a day on weekdays, so there is that. I don't have to cancel plans or vacations. But if work has to get done, work has to get done.
Forwardandonward wrote:I'm also considering government - perhaps at a district attorney or US attorney office. I saw the posted salaries begin at about 60K and go up to about 100k in a few years. Anyone have experience with that?
Dallas DA's office is hard to get - most big cities are. You're not getting hired as an AUSA straight out of school, so go ahead and forget that idea.
Forwardandonward wrote:I know this is putting the cart ahead of the horse, but my decision to attend law school is dependent on the practical outcome. I've been accepted and got the email to interview for the Sumners. I can't take on student debt because of what it would do to my family, so I'll only enroll if I'm so lucky to be granted the scholarship. Thanks in advance for any advice.
Practically? You'll never be able to know what the outcome will be. Ever. It's a complete roll of the dice if you choose to go. You can minimize risk (such as taking a Sumner's scholarship), but ultimately, you could end up in a perfect job or you could end up miserable. There is no way to know without going and seeing what happens.