How bad is Big Law life?

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The Lsat Airbender

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by The Lsat Airbender » Thu Jul 23, 2020 5:53 pm

unlicensedpotato wrote:
Thu Jul 23, 2020 5:33 pm
I think that's a big part of why rates are so high now -- with email, electronic precedents and data rooms, etc., basically every hour billed is a real hour of "work" even at junior levels. It does seem like Lit still gets a lot of BS hours sitting in the airport though.
I agree. It's probably also part of the reason why the '08-'12 was such a brutal culling - the recession triggered a correction where a lot of that "manual labor" work got automated or dropped down to paralegals, especially on the corporate side.

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by lawlo » Thu Jul 23, 2020 7:24 pm

TheoO wrote:
Thu Jul 23, 2020 5:44 pm
eastcoast_iub wrote:
Thu Jul 23, 2020 3:21 pm
I can't emphasize enough how bad M&A and debt finance are compared with specialist regulatory practices. Having worked in both, the latter is much more manageable. Getting off of the front lines with the client makes a tremendous difference. Regulatory practices are not a cakewalk and things do still come up at odd hours and weekends, but the difference is unlike M&A specialist issues are usually discreet issues that can be resolved relatively quickly and they are also often less time-sensitive. Switching practices has extended my big law shelf life to allow me to stack as much as possible and hopefully retire early.
I've heard this from nearly everyone who made the switch. Sadly, these reg groups don't ever seem that large that and are pretty tough to get into. That's another crappy thing: biggest groups are in the practices that also have some of the highest demands.
Isn't the whole point of doing M&A, as opposed to another transactional practice or even lit, the likelihood of having a better quantity and quality of exit options?
I know this thread is about why biglaw sucks and we are comparing practice areas based on how they work in a biglaw setting, but it sure doesn't have me looking forward to starting biglaw soon, and I had to remember why I chose corporate.

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Jul 23, 2020 7:29 pm

lawlo wrote:
Thu Jul 23, 2020 7:24 pm
TheoO wrote:
Thu Jul 23, 2020 5:44 pm
eastcoast_iub wrote:
Thu Jul 23, 2020 3:21 pm
I can't emphasize enough how bad M&A and debt finance are compared with specialist regulatory practices. Having worked in both, the latter is much more manageable. Getting off of the front lines with the client makes a tremendous difference. Regulatory practices are not a cakewalk and things do still come up at odd hours and weekends, but the difference is unlike M&A specialist issues are usually discreet issues that can be resolved relatively quickly and they are also often less time-sensitive. Switching practices has extended my big law shelf life to allow me to stack as much as possible and hopefully retire early.
I've heard this from nearly everyone who made the switch. Sadly, these reg groups don't ever seem that large that and are pretty tough to get into. That's another crappy thing: biggest groups are in the practices that also have some of the highest demands.
Isn't the whole point of doing M&A, as opposed to another transactional practice or even lit, the likelihood of having a better quantity and quality of exit options?
I know this thread is about why biglaw sucks and we are comparing practice areas based on how they work in a biglaw setting, but it sure doesn't have me looking forward to starting biglaw soon, and I had to remember why I chose corporate.
There are good arguments for doing M&A outside of exit options - I think a good one for those that are trying to forge out the path to partnership at the law firm is that M&A is a huge revenue generator, and when you can start running your deals and bringing in/owning clients, your matters will be the ones feeding a lot of the specialist work - this is good from the perspective of personally making a lot of $ deeper into your career and also job security if you have the desire/knack for generating business.

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by Sackboy » Thu Jul 23, 2020 11:37 pm

lawlo wrote:
Thu Jul 23, 2020 7:24 pm

Isn't the whole point of doing M&A, as opposed to another transactional practice or even lit, the likelihood of having a better quantity and quality of exit options?
I know this thread is about why biglaw sucks and we are comparing practice areas based on how they work in a biglaw setting, but it sure doesn't have me looking forward to starting biglaw soon, and I had to remember why I chose corporate.
The anon above me is correct that M&A is one of the best practices for making partner if you have a book of business. You feed a lot of specialists. For M&A, if you show up with a book or are good enough people think you can establish a book, you can get equity. If you're a tax specialist (or many other specialists), you're likely to be deal-support at a lot of firms and therefore not have your own book. That means you only really get equity if there is really a pressing need for management in the practice group or you're seen as future management material.

The highest levels of M&A can be quite interesting as a partner, from what I can tell, so if you're willing to stick it out there is a good reason to practice in the area long-term.

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Jul 24, 2020 10:26 am

TheoO wrote:
Thu Jul 23, 2020 12:59 am
We’ve been in these convos a million times before. There’s no reason to rehash / beat a decomposing horse. I think I’m fine with grinding hard if I felt meaning to it all. But in biglaw I feel like I’m grinding hard to exit into, with luck, something that is less well compensated and likely just a dull. Maybe if you really really want to become a GC, but a hell of a lot of exits are to banks/financial institutions as agc positions that don’t seem thrilling or altogether that important.

We’ve also discussed exits of consulting to death, but they do seem better overall.

There’s no panacea to a generation raised on precarious financial positions, debt, stagnant wages, and seemingly recurring financial crises (and We’re in a better position than vast majority). Still this all feels like an endless grind for not all that much (pay excluded).

But there’s a lot of truth to the idea that law school ppl are late bloomers. As an example: My wife makes quite a bit less than me (around 60k), but she still has been working for 10 years (since UG). She has over 160k in savings and investments she’s accumulated over the years I spent prepping for law, going to law school, and now servicing my debt. Almost half a decade or more of earnings while I aimed to start my career. Granted there’s a lot of exceptions to standards here. She doesn’t get the raises I get (and at her bank and her role, she maybe can max out as an MD at $250k, an amount I’ll surpass in a few years). But her experience in her field makes her feel quite comfortable compared to how precarious my position at a firm feels, but her hours are unreal compared to mine.
This post resonates with me for a few reasons. I did 4+ years of biglaw (V50 corporate) before jumping to the warm embrace of in-house, and my spouse is a doctor who recently finished residency. There should be a lot of reasons why residency is just as miserable and soul crushing as being a biglaw associate - long hours, starting at the bottom and doing all the scut work for years in your mid-late 20s after completing grad school and feeling like you deserve more responsibility at that stage of your life, working under managers (partners/attending) who didn't get to be managers due to their managerial skills, dealing with irrational clients/patients, incredibly stressful and high stakes work, the annoyance having dealing with bar associations/medical boards for licensing and continued certification, etc. Factor in how much more money biglaw pays, and residency might seem like the much worse experience.

But overall, I was much, much more miserable in biglaw than my spouse was in residency, and I think a lot of the key differences highlight why biglaw is so unpleasant. All of these have been touched on at various points in this thread and many others, of course, but just another lens to look at why these particular aspects of biglaw are so wearing on associates.

For one thing, the hours can be more in total during residence, including nights and weekends, but there is so much more predictability. You know when you're on for the weekend or on the night shift, so you know not to make plans then, and you're not constantly worried about a fire drill coming in. You're on call some of the time, but other times you know you're not going to be needed (e.g., when you're rotated on the ICU, they have someone posted there on a night shift so you know you don't need to be called in then). Meanwhile in biglaw you're always on call, always. Nights, weekends, vacations, wedding, honeymoon. People try to be considerate when they can but you're always an email away. And that email can really rock your world. One email could mean you're pulling an all-nighter, or your whole weekend is ruined, or some godawful deal that's going to dominate your next five months is back on despite the fact that you took on more work to fill the hours because you thought that one is dead so now you're going to be super slammed for the foreseeable future. That continuing fear of emails is a kind of psychological strain that just wears at you.

Another big difference is that residency is an actual professional pathway with known endpoints and real promise for professional improvement and growth. You know how long residency is, either three or four or five years, depending on your program, so you understand there's a real light at the end of the tunnel to work towards. There's a graduation at the end, marking your achievements (maybe done remotely due to Covid this year, but still). There's a very good chance of becoming an attending, with all the benefits that come with that in terms of pay, responsibility and autonomy, prestige, funding, etc., so the goal of becoming a full member of the profession seems very attainable, especially after you've already survived the first year or two, and seems like a better life in basically every way. In biglaw, it's an open ended struggle with no particular timeline and no one endpoint you're working towards and almost certainly some downside to what your next career stage will be. Maybe you'll make partner in seven or eight years, but the odds are short enough that you can't count on it. Maybe you'll go in-house and make less money and have to start on the bottom again doing scut work. Maybe you'll go into government and make a lot less money. Maybe you'll just go to a smaller firm, work a bit less but still be an associate working under some unreasonable partners and never make partner yourself. The uncertainty about timing and endpoint just adds another layer of existential dread to the whole thing, since there's no one goal to work for and your motivation is primarily fear of failure rather than achievement of anything good for yourself.

Not being tied to the billable hour also helps in a number of ways. You're not in constant fear that the lack of hours, which can largely be outside your control, will determine if you lose your job or not. The only way to get kicked out of residency is to be absolutely terrible at your job, and even then they can remediate by holding you back a year first. You don't feel like you could get "the talk" any day, with just enough warning to know you should be dreading it but not enough warning to really prepare for it. You also don't need to run this constant juggling contest between not having enough work and having too much work. You're on a rotation, you do the work from that rotation, whether its busy or slow, and then you move on. Your time isn't a commodity being sold, so you don't get treated like a commodity. And because the cost is so high, and clients have so many firms to choose from, there's this general sense of performative servility to everything involving clients. You have to respond lightening fast, you have to tell them what they want, you have to bow and scrape so they don't jump ship to the new Latham office that just opened in your city.

Putting people on rotations also mean you're not stuck with a terrible manager for too long. If you're in the M&A group and the partners are universal miserable, not much you can do other than beg for a transfer or try to lateral. If you're on a rotation system, you can put up with the jerks in one department for a month or two and then try your luck with new attendings in the next group. There is something to be said for not rotating if you like where you are and who you're working with, but the rotation system limits the downside of getting stuck forever in a particularly hellish experience.

The actual day to day experience is a difference as well. It's not necessarily fun to write notes and disimpact a patient's bowels as an intern, but much of being a doctor is walking around, talking to people, formulating plans. It's active, its interactive, and it's different on different days. You're not stuck on a computer behind a desk all day, or squinting at your email on a smartphone when you're home. Looking at documents, editing documents, reading emails of documents, over and over for years, gets very, very old. Just the general nature of being on your feet all day is something that helps keep you out of feeling like you're in a rut.

It also helps a lot in medicine that what you're doing actually matters. Making people feel better, making them healthier, is a pretty great motivator for getting up in the morning and trudging in for a long day of getting your ass kicked. An obvious point, duh, I know. But it puts in stark relief how utterly meaningless biglaw, especially transactional work, is, or at least feels. Two corporations you don't care about are now one big corporation you don't care about, big woop. Some big corporation now has a chunk of cash in their bank account and a ton of debt on their balance sheet, huzzh. A company you wouldn't care to invest in has gone public so other people can invest in it, yay. It's just another layer of pointlessness to the experience.

Another difference is that for residents, because what you're doing actually matters, people only care about things that matter. No one blows up about a pointless typo, unless it actually affects something. Being able to focus on real things and being judged on how you deal with real things makes life much better than worrying about stupid email typos or how you format word files.

I know, I know, being a doctor is much better than being a lawyer, news at 11:00, did someone really need to write an essay explaining that? But the point isn't so much to say how good doctors have it (my spouse could probably come up with a comparable list of reasons why being a doctor sucks) but just to use it as a point to highlight what is so particularly bad about biglaw (and yeah, banking and consulting have a lot of these too, the grass is certainly not greener there). The high unpredictability of hours, the lack of a real professional pathway, being tied to the billable and how that effects your workload, the constant fear of getting fired at any point, having to suck up to clients perpetually, the sedentary and mundane nature of the actual work, the lack of actually feeling like any of it matters to real people in the real world, the possibility of getting stuck in a terrible situation without a natural ending point, having to worry about pointless things like typos and formatting - it all becomes easier to see when you look through the perspective of another difficult but overall more fulfilling job.

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ConfusedNYer

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by ConfusedNYer » Fri Jul 24, 2020 10:53 am

Sure being a junior-midlevel is probably more stress and harder than being a resident, but I think the massive pay difference between the two probably helps make up for it (especially since both groups for the most part have massive debt.) Plus getting into / through med school is way worse than the law school. I really dont think that holistically doctor > lawyer careerwise, even if parts of it seem more manageable when comparing snapshots.

Plus helping to make sure a 70+ year old who is already in a lot of pain and probably not all there because of a rather unhealthy life live a few extra weeks/months (which is a lot of day to day in medicine) doesn't seem that fulfilling? Maybe that's harsh.

At the same time M&A does seem particularly harsh, maybe the real lesson is just try not to do it. (And to those saying it is a benefit for partnership, very true, but every M&A partner I have met is kind of insane, even the relatively nice ones.)

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Jul 24, 2020 10:56 am

Just a side note, one point of disagreement with the above post, I have NEVER seen a wedding or honeymoon get screwed because of work. And I worked at a notorious, no life, never not on call, type of Big Law firm. But weddings and subsequent honeymoons were wholly respected. I've seen and heard partners tell people they aren't allowed to bug the person on their honeymoon, even when it would be really helpful. Grain of salt, maybe other places are different, but at least that boundary was respected where I was.

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Jul 24, 2020 11:25 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Fri Jul 24, 2020 10:56 am
Just a side note, one point of disagreement with the above post, I have NEVER seen a wedding or honeymoon get screwed because of work. And I worked at a notorious, no life, never not on call, type of Big Law firm. But weddings and subsequent honeymoons were wholly respected. I've seen and heard partners tell people they aren't allowed to bug the person on their honeymoon, even when it would be really helpful. Grain of salt, maybe other places are different, but at least that boundary was respected where I was.
I have been in biglaw for a while and I agree with this. It's pretty much the only time I've seen respected at a 100% rate.

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Jul 24, 2020 11:35 am

My firm also respected weddings and honeymoons, but that was the only thing they respected. I usually didn’t have to work my whole vacation (or even most of it), but it was almost always enough that the vacation wasn’t relaxing at all. The most irritating thing was that partners clearly viewed it as: “I work on my vacations, so I’m not asking you to do anything I’m not.” Actually you are, because my work involves putting together an interview binder on my laptop at my parents’ kitchen table on Thanksgiving and getting paid $190K for it, and your work involves dialing into a call that someone else takes notes on so you don’t even really have to listen and getting paid $1M+ for it. And don’t even get me started on “sorry for the fire drill on a holiday but it’s very important that we provide the best service that we can to our client [by doing this non-urgent task that I’ll stop responding to emails about around 7 PM so you’re left wondering if you’re done, if I’m going to come back with more edits, if I got your email at all, etc.].”
Last edited by Anonymous User on Fri Jul 24, 2020 11:40 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Jul 24, 2020 11:36 am

Lol I'm literally putting off a (minor) elective surgery until after I start so I can do it while I'm in biglaw to get a day or two off.

snehpets

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by snehpets » Fri Jul 24, 2020 11:47 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Fri Jul 24, 2020 11:36 am
Lol I'm literally putting off a (minor) elective surgery until after I start so I can do it while I'm in biglaw to get a day or two off.
Not sure I would do this. Obviously they can’t directly say anything to you about it, and obviously it’s extremely stupid for anyone to care, but at least at my biglaw firm it was sufficiently rare for people to be offline all day for medical reasons that being off for an elective surgery right after starting would definitely have gotten a side-eye. The assumption was also generally that you would work when you were sick, recovering from surgery, etc. unless you were so sick/drugged up that you literally couldn’t. The typical “sick day” email was “I will be working remotely due to illness,” not “I will be unavailable today due to illness.” I do think my firm was particularly bad about this stuff relative to other firms, but it’s just not the first impression I would want to give in your position.

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Jul 24, 2020 12:02 pm

snehpets wrote:
Fri Jul 24, 2020 11:47 am
Anonymous User wrote:
Fri Jul 24, 2020 11:36 am
Lol I'm literally putting off a (minor) elective surgery until after I start so I can do it while I'm in biglaw to get a day or two off.
Not sure I would do this. Obviously they can’t directly say anything to you about it, and obviously it’s extremely stupid for anyone to care, but at least at my biglaw firm it was sufficiently rare for people to be offline all day for medical reasons that being off for an elective surgery right after starting would definitely have gotten a side-eye. The assumption was also generally that you would work when you were sick, recovering from surgery, etc. unless you were so sick/drugged up that you literally couldn’t. The typical “sick day” email was “I will be working remotely due to illness,” not “I will be unavailable today due to illness.” I do think my firm was particularly bad about this stuff relative to other firms, but it’s just not the first impression I would want to give in your position.
FWIW, I don’t plan on having it done until after the first year or so. So it wouldn’t be super early. And it’s pretty minor, so I’d be fine working if I had to, it’d just be nice to have an excuse to work remotely for a day or two.

Honestly, I can’t really afford it until I get the biglaw health insurance anyway.

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Jul 24, 2020 12:37 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Fri Jul 24, 2020 10:26 am
TheoO wrote:
Thu Jul 23, 2020 12:59 am
We’ve been in these convos a million times before. There’s no reason to rehash / beat a decomposing horse. I think I’m fine with grinding hard if I felt meaning to it all. But in biglaw I feel like I’m grinding hard to exit into, with luck, something that is less well compensated and likely just a dull. Maybe if you really really want to become a GC, but a hell of a lot of exits are to banks/financial institutions as agc positions that don’t seem thrilling or altogether that important.

We’ve also discussed exits of consulting to death, but they do seem better overall.

There’s no panacea to a generation raised on precarious financial positions, debt, stagnant wages, and seemingly recurring financial crises (and We’re in a better position than vast majority). Still this all feels like an endless grind for not all that much (pay excluded).

But there’s a lot of truth to the idea that law school ppl are late bloomers. As an example: My wife makes quite a bit less than me (around 60k), but she still has been working for 10 years (since UG). She has over 160k in savings and investments she’s accumulated over the years I spent prepping for law, going to law school, and now servicing my debt. Almost half a decade or more of earnings while I aimed to start my career. Granted there’s a lot of exceptions to standards here. She doesn’t get the raises I get (and at her bank and her role, she maybe can max out as an MD at $250k, an amount I’ll surpass in a few years). But her experience in her field makes her feel quite comfortable compared to how precarious my position at a firm feels, but her hours are unreal compared to mine.
This post resonates with me for a few reasons. I did 4+ years of biglaw (V50 corporate) before jumping to the warm embrace of in-house, and my spouse is a doctor who recently finished residency. There should be a lot of reasons why residency is just as miserable and soul crushing as being a biglaw associate - long hours, starting at the bottom and doing all the scut work for years in your mid-late 20s after completing grad school and feeling like you deserve more responsibility at that stage of your life, working under managers (partners/attending) who didn't get to be managers due to their managerial skills, dealing with irrational clients/patients, incredibly stressful and high stakes work, the annoyance having dealing with bar associations/medical boards for licensing and continued certification, etc. Factor in how much more money biglaw pays, and residency might seem like the much worse experience.

But overall, I was much, much more miserable in biglaw than my spouse was in residency, and I think a lot of the key differences highlight why biglaw is so unpleasant. All of these have been touched on at various points in this thread and many others, of course, but just another lens to look at why these particular aspects of biglaw are so wearing on associates.

For one thing, the hours can be more in total during residence, including nights and weekends, but there is so much more predictability. You know when you're on for the weekend or on the night shift, so you know not to make plans then, and you're not constantly worried about a fire drill coming in. You're on call some of the time, but other times you know you're not going to be needed (e.g., when you're rotated on the ICU, they have someone posted there on a night shift so you know you don't need to be called in then). Meanwhile in biglaw you're always on call, always. Nights, weekends, vacations, wedding, honeymoon. People try to be considerate when they can but you're always an email away. And that email can really rock your world. One email could mean you're pulling an all-nighter, or your whole weekend is ruined, or some godawful deal that's going to dominate your next five months is back on despite the fact that you took on more work to fill the hours because you thought that one is dead so now you're going to be super slammed for the foreseeable future. That continuing fear of emails is a kind of psychological strain that just wears at you.

Another big difference is that residency is an actual professional pathway with known endpoints and real promise for professional improvement and growth. You know how long residency is, either three or four or five years, depending on your program, so you understand there's a real light at the end of the tunnel to work towards. There's a graduation at the end, marking your achievements (maybe done remotely due to Covid this year, but still). There's a very good chance of becoming an attending, with all the benefits that come with that in terms of pay, responsibility and autonomy, prestige, funding, etc., so the goal of becoming a full member of the profession seems very attainable, especially after you've already survived the first year or two, and seems like a better life in basically every way. In biglaw, it's an open ended struggle with no particular timeline and no one endpoint you're working towards and almost certainly some downside to what your next career stage will be. Maybe you'll make partner in seven or eight years, but the odds are short enough that you can't count on it. Maybe you'll go in-house and make less money and have to start on the bottom again doing scut work. Maybe you'll go into government and make a lot less money. Maybe you'll just go to a smaller firm, work a bit less but still be an associate working under some unreasonable partners and never make partner yourself. The uncertainty about timing and endpoint just adds another layer of existential dread to the whole thing, since there's no one goal to work for and your motivation is primarily fear of failure rather than achievement of anything good for yourself.

Not being tied to the billable hour also helps in a number of ways. You're not in constant fear that the lack of hours, which can largely be outside your control, will determine if you lose your job or not. The only way to get kicked out of residency is to be absolutely terrible at your job, and even then they can remediate by holding you back a year first. You don't feel like you could get "the talk" any day, with just enough warning to know you should be dreading it but not enough warning to really prepare for it. You also don't need to run this constant juggling contest between not having enough work and having too much work. You're on a rotation, you do the work from that rotation, whether its busy or slow, and then you move on. Your time isn't a commodity being sold, so you don't get treated like a commodity. And because the cost is so high, and clients have so many firms to choose from, there's this general sense of performative servility to everything involving clients. You have to respond lightening fast, you have to tell them what they want, you have to bow and scrape so they don't jump ship to the new Latham office that just opened in your city.

Putting people on rotations also mean you're not stuck with a terrible manager for too long. If you're in the M&A group and the partners are universal miserable, not much you can do other than beg for a transfer or try to lateral. If you're on a rotation system, you can put up with the jerks in one department for a month or two and then try your luck with new attendings in the next group. There is something to be said for not rotating if you like where you are and who you're working with, but the rotation system limits the downside of getting stuck forever in a particularly hellish experience.

The actual day to day experience is a difference as well. It's not necessarily fun to write notes and disimpact a patient's bowels as an intern, but much of being a doctor is walking around, talking to people, formulating plans. It's active, its interactive, and it's different on different days. You're not stuck on a computer behind a desk all day, or squinting at your email on a smartphone when you're home. Looking at documents, editing documents, reading emails of documents, over and over for years, gets very, very old. Just the general nature of being on your feet all day is something that helps keep you out of feeling like you're in a rut.

It also helps a lot in medicine that what you're doing actually matters. Making people feel better, making them healthier, is a pretty great motivator for getting up in the morning and trudging in for a long day of getting your ass kicked. An obvious point, duh, I know. But it puts in stark relief how utterly meaningless biglaw, especially transactional work, is, or at least feels. Two corporations you don't care about are now one big corporation you don't care about, big woop. Some big corporation now has a chunk of cash in their bank account and a ton of debt on their balance sheet, huzzh. A company you wouldn't care to invest in has gone public so other people can invest in it, yay. It's just another layer of pointlessness to the experience.

Another difference is that for residents, because what you're doing actually matters, people only care about things that matter. No one blows up about a pointless typo, unless it actually affects something. Being able to focus on real things and being judged on how you deal with real things makes life much better than worrying about stupid email typos or how you format word files.

I know, I know, being a doctor is much better than being a lawyer, news at 11:00, did someone really need to write an essay explaining that? But the point isn't so much to say how good doctors have it (my spouse could probably come up with a comparable list of reasons why being a doctor sucks) but just to use it as a point to highlight what is so particularly bad about biglaw (and yeah, banking and consulting have a lot of these too, the grass is certainly not greener there). The high unpredictability of hours, the lack of a real professional pathway, being tied to the billable and how that effects your workload, the constant fear of getting fired at any point, having to suck up to clients perpetually, the sedentary and mundane nature of the actual work, the lack of actually feeling like any of it matters to real people in the real world, the possibility of getting stuck in a terrible situation without a natural ending point, having to worry about pointless things like typos and formatting - it all becomes easier to see when you look through the perspective of another difficult but overall more fulfilling job.
My father in law is an ER doctor that works wacky hours and has for 30 years. He works his ass off and does 12 hour shifts that are all over the place, making his sleep schedule be completely off, but totally agree with the general assessment above. When he isn't working, he's completely free and then when he is working, it can be grueling and stressful, but there is an end in sight every single day. He also loves his job and helping patients and he loves medicine. He's seen me and my work plenty of times because I often have to bring it over my in-laws' house when we visit and he thinks that our work is mind-numblingly boring and stressful for no reason. He doesn't understand the urgency at all. He also has seen plenty of my trips cut short because we needed to leave early because I had deals closing or signings that got moved up, or pushed last minute to the days we were supposed to be visiting. He just can't believe the lack of control over your own schedule, even once you've had 5+ years of experience. One night, after a drink or two he came over and let me know that he understands my frustration, since I guess I was wearing it on my sleeve, and that he could never imagine doing the work I do and that I should get out ASAP. Definitely felt good knowing I had the support of my in-laws since I don't verbalize a lot of my frustration in front of them, but really made we realize how this job is basically utter bullshit.

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replevin123

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by replevin123 » Fri Jul 24, 2020 12:56 pm

Is the general consensus that if you are in lit, really liked law school and cases and thinking about the law that life will be somewhat bearable or ok in biglaw? Long term I'm thinking about government exit ops or even boutique post-biglaw before trying for government.

nixy

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by nixy » Fri Jul 24, 2020 1:00 pm

replevin123 wrote:
Fri Jul 24, 2020 12:56 pm
Is the general consensus that if you are in lit, really liked law school and cases and thinking about the law that life will be somewhat bearable or ok in biglaw? Long term I'm thinking about government exit ops or even boutique post-biglaw before trying for government.
I don’t think it’s quite this straightforward, because liking to read about cases/the law as an intellectual exercise isn’t really the same as working cases (esp dealing with opposing counsel and so on). Maybe a better chance though.

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Jul 24, 2020 1:04 pm

replevin123 wrote:
Fri Jul 24, 2020 12:56 pm
Is the general consensus that if you are in lit, really liked law school and cases and thinking about the law that life will be somewhat bearable or ok in biglaw? Long term I'm thinking about government exit ops or even boutique post-biglaw before trying for government.
I am in biglaw lit and wouldn't agree with this necessarily. There are certainly parts you will probably enjoy (brief writing, legal research, etc.) but other parts that will probably be mind numbingly boring regardless (discovery objections, document dispute letters, etc.). But what makes biglaw bad is less the boring nature of some of the work and more all of the issues discussed ITT re: hours pressure, availability, unreasonableness of partners, etc.

Also, even interesting things will can easily turn less so when you're entering in the 3rd round of redundant edits and incomprehensible comments from seniors/partners on something you drafted.

hdr

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by hdr » Fri Jul 24, 2020 1:38 pm

replevin123 wrote:
Fri Jul 24, 2020 12:56 pm
Is the general consensus that if you are in lit, really liked law school and cases and thinking about the law that life will be somewhat bearable or ok in biglaw? Long term I'm thinking about government exit ops or even boutique post-biglaw before trying for government.
lol no. Biglaw litigation is generally boring, many tasks are extremely tedious, and it can be somewhat stressful since messing up in an adversarial proceeding can cost you big time. Whether it's bearable or not mostly depends on who you work with.

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Jul 24, 2020 2:45 pm

The Lsat Airbender wrote:
Thu Jul 23, 2020 12:09 pm
nealric wrote:
Thu Jul 23, 2020 12:03 pm
I would be very much surprised if a mid to senior associate billing 2,100 with good reviews got pushed out. At senior associate billing rates, and assuming a decent collections rate, you are bringing in over 1.5MM in revenue for the firm, and your all in cost can't be much more than $500k. Why would they push you out unless they thought your billables were going to collapse? The folks that get pushed out either 1) aren't billing enough (well under target), or 2) aren't trusted to advance to higher-level work (and thus can be replaced with a cheaper junior).

If you don't make partner, it's more likely they just call you counsel and keep you around as long as you are willing to keep billing.
Agree with this. If you're coasting on like 1600 hours you'll get a talking-to, since you're taking up space that could be used to develop other associates, but firms don't just ditch productive seniors nowadays. (It's different for juniors, who are much more replaceable.)
OP here. You may be right--although for the sake of my sanity I hope you're not, because I don't know if I'll have the resolve to jump off the gravy train myself.

My understanding is that our firm (~V50) used to let seniors hang around as long as they were productive/profitable, but in the last couple of years they've made a concerted effort to "clear the decks," eliminate indefinite counsel positions, and push people out. Maybe you get an extra year to make partner, but you need to be trying. People I talked to in the firm about this had split opinions. Some made the financial argument that you point out--and I agree. Others said that no one wants to be an associate for life (not true, see me) and that it's harmful to let "super senior" associates hog work that could be used to develop other seniors/mids.

That said, I think the calculus around this philosophy probably ebbs and flows with the economy, specific staffing needs, and other factors--so who knows what things will be like two years from now when I'm in that position.

eastcoast_iub

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by eastcoast_iub » Fri Jul 24, 2020 3:32 pm

lawlo wrote:
Thu Jul 23, 2020 7:24 pm
TheoO wrote:
Thu Jul 23, 2020 5:44 pm
eastcoast_iub wrote:
Thu Jul 23, 2020 3:21 pm
I can't emphasize enough how bad M&A and debt finance are compared with specialist regulatory practices. Having worked in both, the latter is much more manageable. Getting off of the front lines with the client makes a tremendous difference. Regulatory practices are not a cakewalk and things do still come up at odd hours and weekends, but the difference is unlike M&A specialist issues are usually discreet issues that can be resolved relatively quickly and they are also often less time-sensitive. Switching practices has extended my big law shelf life to allow me to stack as much as possible and hopefully retire early.
I've heard this from nearly everyone who made the switch. Sadly, these reg groups don't ever seem that large that and are pretty tough to get into. That's another crappy thing: biggest groups are in the practices that also have some of the highest demands.
Isn't the whole point of doing M&A, as opposed to another transactional practice or even lit, the likelihood of having a better quantity and quality of exit options?
I know this thread is about why biglaw sucks and we are comparing practice areas based on how they work in a biglaw setting, but it sure doesn't have me looking forward to starting biglaw soon, and I had to remember why I chose corporate.
M&A does give the broadest experience and exit options, which is the argument to choosing it. It is so demanding and unrelentingly terrible schedule-wise that in IMO it is not worth doing years of b/c of the potential of better exit options. Same thing for aiming for partner, IMO it's just not worth sacrificing 10-12 years of your life for a small chance at getting filthy rich and having many more years of unrelenting drudgery with no chance to unplug.

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by Anonymous User » Sat Jul 25, 2020 12:09 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Fri Jul 24, 2020 12:02 pm
snehpets wrote:
Fri Jul 24, 2020 11:47 am
Anonymous User wrote:
Fri Jul 24, 2020 11:36 am
Lol I'm literally putting off a (minor) elective surgery until after I start so I can do it while I'm in biglaw to get a day or two off.
Not sure I would do this. Obviously they can’t directly say anything to you about it, and obviously it’s extremely stupid for anyone to care, but at least at my biglaw firm it was sufficiently rare for people to be offline all day for medical reasons that being off for an elective surgery right after starting would definitely have gotten a side-eye. The assumption was also generally that you would work when you were sick, recovering from surgery, etc. unless you were so sick/drugged up that you literally couldn’t. The typical “sick day” email was “I will be working remotely due to illness,” not “I will be unavailable today due to illness.” I do think my firm was particularly bad about this stuff relative to other firms, but it’s just not the first impression I would want to give in your position.
FWIW, I don’t plan on having it done until after the first year or so. So it wouldn’t be super early. And it’s pretty minor, so I’d be fine working if I had to, it’d just be nice to have an excuse to work remotely for a day or two.

Honestly, I can’t really afford it until I get the biglaw health insurance anyway.
The thing that stinks about biglaw is that there really isn't such thing as a "day or two off". You're either out on vacation with coverage or you are expected to be around because it's pretty impossible for someone to cover you for a single day. If you do somehow attempt this and something comes up on one of your deals, then that means someone else on the team is doing your work for you or your day off is ruined. The result is that absent family emergencies, religious observations, etc., there really isn't such thing as a day off as it will just set you back or stress you out there whole time.

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by Anonymous User » Sat Jul 25, 2020 12:58 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Sat Jul 25, 2020 12:09 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Fri Jul 24, 2020 12:02 pm
snehpets wrote:
Fri Jul 24, 2020 11:47 am
Anonymous User wrote:
Fri Jul 24, 2020 11:36 am
Lol I'm literally putting off a (minor) elective surgery until after I start so I can do it while I'm in biglaw to get a day or two off.
Not sure I would do this. Obviously they can’t directly say anything to you about it, and obviously it’s extremely stupid for anyone to care, but at least at my biglaw firm it was sufficiently rare for people to be offline all day for medical reasons that being off for an elective surgery right after starting would definitely have gotten a side-eye. The assumption was also generally that you would work when you were sick, recovering from surgery, etc. unless you were so sick/drugged up that you literally couldn’t. The typical “sick day” email was “I will be working remotely due to illness,” not “I will be unavailable today due to illness.” I do think my firm was particularly bad about this stuff relative to other firms, but it’s just not the first impression I would want to give in your position.
FWIW, I don’t plan on having it done until after the first year or so. So it wouldn’t be super early. And it’s pretty minor, so I’d be fine working if I had to, it’d just be nice to have an excuse to work remotely for a day or two.

Honestly, I can’t really afford it until I get the biglaw health insurance anyway.
The thing that stinks about biglaw is that there really isn't such thing as a "day or two off". You're either out on vacation with coverage or you are expected to be around because it's pretty impossible for someone to cover you for a single day. If you do somehow attempt this and something comes up on one of your deals, then that means someone else on the team is doing your work for you or your day off is ruined. The result is that absent family emergencies, religious observations, etc., there really isn't such thing as a day off as it will just set you back or stress you out there whole time.
I don't mean to be naive, but what if you have a medical need to be unavailable...? Tons of people need to have surgeries, treatments, etc. for various reasons. Other times, people do get so sick that they can't really work. Hopefully, when it isn't a true emergency, people who need a surgery or treatment can give plenty of notice and be available remotely as much as possible, but people do need to be unavailable sometimes for circumstances outside of their control that might not qualify as a true emergency (heart attack, dead family member, etc.).

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by Anonymous User » Sat Jul 25, 2020 1:03 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Sat Jul 25, 2020 12:58 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Sat Jul 25, 2020 12:09 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Fri Jul 24, 2020 12:02 pm
snehpets wrote:
Fri Jul 24, 2020 11:47 am
Anonymous User wrote:
Fri Jul 24, 2020 11:36 am
Lol I'm literally putting off a (minor) elective surgery until after I start so I can do it while I'm in biglaw to get a day or two off.
Not sure I would do this. Obviously they can’t directly say anything to you about it, and obviously it’s extremely stupid for anyone to care, but at least at my biglaw firm it was sufficiently rare for people to be offline all day for medical reasons that being off for an elective surgery right after starting would definitely have gotten a side-eye. The assumption was also generally that you would work when you were sick, recovering from surgery, etc. unless you were so sick/drugged up that you literally couldn’t. The typical “sick day” email was “I will be working remotely due to illness,” not “I will be unavailable today due to illness.” I do think my firm was particularly bad about this stuff relative to other firms, but it’s just not the first impression I would want to give in your position.
FWIW, I don’t plan on having it done until after the first year or so. So it wouldn’t be super early. And it’s pretty minor, so I’d be fine working if I had to, it’d just be nice to have an excuse to work remotely for a day or two.

Honestly, I can’t really afford it until I get the biglaw health insurance anyway.
The thing that stinks about biglaw is that there really isn't such thing as a "day or two off". You're either out on vacation with coverage or you are expected to be around because it's pretty impossible for someone to cover you for a single day. If you do somehow attempt this and something comes up on one of your deals, then that means someone else on the team is doing your work for you or your day off is ruined. The result is that absent family emergencies, religious observations, etc., there really isn't such thing as a day off as it will just set you back or stress you out there whole time.
I don't mean to be naive, but what if you have a medical need to be unavailable...? Tons of people need to have surgeries, treatments, etc. for various reasons. Other times, people do get so sick that they can't really work. Hopefully, when it isn't a true emergency, people who need a surgery or treatment can give plenty of notice and be available remotely as much as possible, but people do need to be unavailable sometimes for circumstances outside of their control that might not qualify as a true emergency (heart attack, dead family member, etc.).
A partner once told me he worked through his grandma's funeral. I think he was trying to show the amount of dedication it takes to succeed. Idk.

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by AllyMcBail » Sat Jul 25, 2020 1:23 pm

snehpets wrote:
Fri Jul 24, 2020 11:47 am
The typical “sick day” email was “I will be working remotely due to illness,” not “I will be unavailable today due to illness.”
lol this is so true

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by Anonymous User » Sat Jul 25, 2020 1:26 pm

Just to give this thread a reality check, I wanted to check in as a V30 associate in a transactional practice and say I bill maybe 1-2 hours on vacation, which has rarely ever been required but just because I thought it’d be good to help out, and partners wholly respect legitimate emergencies. I had an immediate family member die and was out 2 weeks, right after a vacation, and everyone was totally understanding, covered for me, and I billed 0.0 hours. Still got a market bonus that year.

Not to say it’s all roses, I certainly live in a state of stress, but just to put some data points out there that not everyone is totally inhumane.

AllyMcBail

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by AllyMcBail » Sat Jul 25, 2020 1:28 pm

replevin123 wrote:
Fri Jul 24, 2020 12:56 pm
Is the general consensus that if you are in lit, really liked law school and cases and thinking about the law that life will be somewhat bearable or ok in biglaw? Long term I'm thinking about government exit ops or even boutique post-biglaw before trying for government.
I don't think so. I liked law school, but I still hated by biglaw lit job. There were some fun parts, when I had open-ended research assignments (what kinds of arguments could we make if X/Y/or Z), but the job generally sucked because there was lots of doc review and otherwise tedious assignments, and there was the stress of always being on call. I think government is the way to go after you've made a little $$$ in biglaw for a few years.

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