How bad is Big Law life?

(On Campus Interviews, Summer Associate positions, Firm Reviews, Tips, ...)
Forum rules
Anonymous Posting

Anonymous posting is only appropriate when you are revealing sensitive employment related information about a firm, job, etc. You may anonymously respond on topic to these threads. Unacceptable uses include: harassing another user, joking around, testing the feature, or other things that are more appropriate in the lounge.

Failure to follow these rules will get you outed, warned, or banned.
DiligentSage

New
Posts: 10
Joined: Fri Oct 16, 2015 2:25 am

Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by DiligentSage » Sun Jul 26, 2020 8:05 pm

sms18 wrote:
Sun Jul 26, 2020 4:32 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Sun Jul 26, 2020 4:20 pm
sms18 wrote:
Sun Jul 26, 2020 3:49 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Sun Jul 26, 2020 2:36 pm
cisscum wrote:
Sun Jul 26, 2020 1:41 pm
[*]68
Anonymous User wrote:
Sun Jul 26, 2020 8:29 am
Another one of those small thing about biglaw that really grated on me was the double standard with respect to expectation of responsiveness. God forbid you didn't reply to a client's or partner's email instantly. It's a mortal sin. Because client service is the key to this job and nothing says client service like replying instantly to anything.

But when you email a partner with questions or for needed information - so you can then get the work product to the client - it's like waiting for a reply from Santa Clause to come back from the North Pole. Hours, days can go by, follow-ups get ignored, tumbleweeds start rolling down the hallway. It's absolutely maddening. It's not like I'm emailing you about my fantasy football team or to see if you want to grab drinks. I'm not doing this for my health. I'm emailing you about your client so I can get back to your client in that timely manner you expect from me! If the client had emailed the partner directly, they'd reply instantly. Sure, that reply would be copying me and telling them that I'll be getting back to them asap. But at least they would respond, acknowledge the email. When the client instead emails me directly and then I need to reach out to the partner for something, though? It disappears into the ether, lost in the void, as if they've created a rule in Outlook where all emails from associates bypass the inbox and go directly into the trash, or some folder that never gets checked along with conflict check emails. I can understand spending less time responding to me, not crafting the perfect email, but that just means it shouldn't take that long to respond since they write emails like a twelve year old ("thnx").

When I left biglaw I went in-house at an i-bank, where you would think things like time and courtesy would be in short supply. And yeah, some people weren't great about responding to me. But for the most part both my boss in legal and the business folks I dealt with, up to and including managing directors, were much better at being responsive. They understood if I needed something from them to advance a deal they were working on, getting me the information I needed as fast as they could would get that deal done faster. Which is not rocket science. But biglaw partners aren't rocket scientists, either.
Protip: the partner has way more stuff on his plate than you do. It's your job to manage his workload and follow up as necessary. You're not important and your time is less valuable than his
Takes a certain type of person to be in their early thirties and be ok with the dynamic of "you are not important" in a job that is as stressful and time consuming as big law. This is the fundamental aspect of big law that makes the job unsustainable and miserable.
Wait, you're in your early thirties and you still think you're "special"? (regardless of what your mommy told you?) If so, biglaw (let alone any corporate organization) is probably not the right place for you...
Yea, being treated with respect and like my finite time on this planet isn't worthless is such a large thing to ask. I've worked outside of big law on the business side and no one treats people worse than I've seen people treated at law firms. Corporates that treat people similarly are known for being shitty places to work. I guess my bad for not wanting to continue working in these environments, fuck me right?
A partner not responding to your email on a timely fashion (or not responding altogether) doesn't immediately translate into them treating you with "disrespect." As someone else mentioned on this thread ,a part of an associate's job is managing a partner's schedule and bringing things to his/her attention, whether it be knocking on his/her door or putting something on their calendar. A discussion on poor associate treatment in biglaw is definitely worth having, but your post (or someone else? can't tell because of anonymous posting, although no idea why this needs to be on an anonymous basis) where you vented about a partner not getting back to your email sounded a bit snow flakey to me.
Yeah, the partner not responding quickly to an associate's email is since there are 24643259845 other fires to put out, you are not the only associate with issues to bring to their attention, and there has to be some prioritizing. The notion that your matter is the top item on their work flow seems rather myopic (if you need partner comments to get back to the client on a discrete one-off project while they're, say, managing the closing of a merger, you rightfully will be pushed to the bottom of the stack if responding to your email is going to take more than giving a yes/no response). Client inquiries get more priority since the partner is responding to keep the ball rolling, get the relevant associate team on the matter, or otherwise just to let the client know that their request has been acknowledged. The associate's job is to keep pushing the inquiry so it doesn't get lost in the mix.

Is there room for the partner to say "Sorry, tied up right now, will try to get back to you later"? Sure. Nor are partners especially good at figuring out what clients/matters/issues should be prioritized accordingly. But agree with the above that a lack of response doesn't mean that the partner is disrespecting you, it's that your matter isn't perceived as urgent as others and they're apportioning their time accordingly.

Anonymous User
Posts: 350605
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by Anonymous User » Sun Jul 26, 2020 8:33 pm

sms18 wrote:
Sun Jul 26, 2020 4:32 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Sun Jul 26, 2020 4:20 pm
sms18 wrote:
Sun Jul 26, 2020 3:49 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Sun Jul 26, 2020 2:36 pm
cisscum wrote:
Sun Jul 26, 2020 1:41 pm
[*]68
Anonymous User wrote:
Sun Jul 26, 2020 8:29 am
Another one of those small thing about biglaw that really grated on me was the double standard with respect to expectation of responsiveness. God forbid you didn't reply to a client's or partner's email instantly. It's a mortal sin. Because client service is the key to this job and nothing says client service like replying instantly to anything.

But when you email a partner with questions or for needed information - so you can then get the work product to the client - it's like waiting for a reply from Santa Clause to come back from the North Pole. Hours, days can go by, follow-ups get ignored, tumbleweeds start rolling down the hallway. It's absolutely maddening. It's not like I'm emailing you about my fantasy football team or to see if you want to grab drinks. I'm not doing this for my health. I'm emailing you about your client so I can get back to your client in that timely manner you expect from me! If the client had emailed the partner directly, they'd reply instantly. Sure, that reply would be copying me and telling them that I'll be getting back to them asap. But at least they would respond, acknowledge the email. When the client instead emails me directly and then I need to reach out to the partner for something, though? It disappears into the ether, lost in the void, as if they've created a rule in Outlook where all emails from associates bypass the inbox and go directly into the trash, or some folder that never gets checked along with conflict check emails. I can understand spending less time responding to me, not crafting the perfect email, but that just means it shouldn't take that long to respond since they write emails like a twelve year old ("thnx").

When I left biglaw I went in-house at an i-bank, where you would think things like time and courtesy would be in short supply. And yeah, some people weren't great about responding to me. But for the most part both my boss in legal and the business folks I dealt with, up to and including managing directors, were much better at being responsive. They understood if I needed something from them to advance a deal they were working on, getting me the information I needed as fast as they could would get that deal done faster. Which is not rocket science. But biglaw partners aren't rocket scientists, either.
Protip: the partner has way more stuff on his plate than you do. It's your job to manage his workload and follow up as necessary. You're not important and your time is less valuable than his
Takes a certain type of person to be in their early thirties and be ok with the dynamic of "you are not important" in a job that is as stressful and time consuming as big law. This is the fundamental aspect of big law that makes the job unsustainable and miserable.
Wait, you're in your early thirties and you still think you're "special"? (regardless of what your mommy told you?) If so, biglaw (let alone any corporate organization) is probably not the right place for you...
Yea, being treated with respect and like my finite time on this planet isn't worthless is such a large thing to ask. I've worked outside of big law on the business side and no one treats people worse than I've seen people treated at law firms. Corporates that treat people similarly are known for being shitty places to work. I guess my bad for not wanting to continue working in these environments, fuck me right?
A partner not responding to your email on a timely fashion (or not responding altogether) doesn't immediately translate into them treating you with "disrespect." As someone else mentioned on this thread ,a part of an associate's job is managing a partner's schedule and bringing things to his/her attention, whether it be knocking on his/her door or putting something on their calendar. A discussion on poor associate treatment in biglaw is definitely worth having, but your post (or someone else? can't tell because of anonymous posting, although no idea why this needs to be on an anonymous basis) where you vented about a partner not getting back to your email sounded a bit snow flakey to me.
I think you're misinterpreting, I never said that a partner not responding to you email is disrespectful, but the notion that "your time is not important," which is fairly prevalent I've found after being at multiple firms, is disrespectful and one of the many reasons I don't like being at a firm anymore. It was fine when I was 25, but being in my early thirties, its made it clear that this is not the future for me. It's one thing to have stuff closing/signing and need to be available, but I've seen partners treat associates truly, like their time is worthless other than serving their needs, and it is extremely disrespectful. My entire group quit my last firm over the course of several months because of this attitude with a few of the partners. A lot of people just aren't willing to put up with that shit. But it has nothing to do with no responding to emails or telling you they can't deal with your stuff now because they are busy.

User avatar
Dcc617

Gold
Posts: 2511
Joined: Mon Oct 13, 2014 3:01 pm

Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by Dcc617 » Sun Jul 26, 2020 9:22 pm

There are a lot of bootlickers in this thread.

AllyMcBail

New
Posts: 15
Joined: Thu Jun 11, 2020 4:26 pm

Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by AllyMcBail » Sun Jul 26, 2020 9:53 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Sun Jul 26, 2020 4:05 pm
cisscum wrote:
Sun Jul 26, 2020 3:42 pm
Your value to the firm (i.e., the thing you're being paid for) is all that matters to the firm. Nobody cares about your value as a person (lol)

Yes, lol. I mean, we agree on this point. But there are various careers, jobs, industries, etc., where people do value their colleagues in ways that go beyond the specific dollar amount of revenue they are capable of generating. And that can make for a somewhat less stressful working environment. I don't feel like this is an especially controversial or original point...but I don't know. I'm not crusading to change the culture of biglaw. I was just stating that detaching from that culture has been beneficial to me.
(I am not the anon poster(s) above.) I agree that in biglaw "[n]obody cares about your value as a person." That's the problem. I think there is a difference between wanting to feel like a special snowflake and being treated w/ basic dignity/humanity. And it's the lack of the latter than can make biglaw feel toxic. In my experience in biglaw, there was very little human connection with any of my colleagues, which differs from the experiences of friends who work in non-biglaw legal jobs and in areas such as local government, engineering, and entertainment. I'm sure that finance and other high intensity fields are similarly impersonal to biglaw.

User avatar
EzraFitz

Silver
Posts: 762
Joined: Mon Jul 01, 2013 10:42 am

Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by EzraFitz » Sun Jul 26, 2020 10:13 pm

There are a shocking number of people here who don't realize that not all big law is the same, and that there are plenty of shops out there who give the dignity that many here agree should be happening. The people acting like "that's big law, take your money and deal with it" need a bit of a reality check... That might be the job you have, the thing that makes sense for you, but trying to normalize it is misguided.

Want to continue reading?

Register now to search topics and post comments!

Absolutely FREE!


Anonymous User
Posts: 350605
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by Anonymous User » Sun Jul 26, 2020 10:26 pm

EzraFitz wrote:
Sun Jul 26, 2020 10:13 pm
There are a shocking number of people here who don't realize that not all big law is the same, and that there are plenty of shops out there who give the dignity that many here agree should be happening. The people acting like "that's big law, take your money and deal with it" need a bit of a reality check... That might be the job you have, the thing that makes sense for you, but trying to normalize it is misguided.
This. Only thing I'd disagree with is one person's experience can differ wildly within the same firm. It just matters so, so much who you work with. I've had awful partners that never respond to anything and send emails all weekend as a matter of course with zero heads up. Then I've also worked with partners that respond to everything, always say thank you, and offer helpful advice. The problem is you don't know what type you'll be working with until you actually start. If you have a large enough group, the right move is to seek out the partners that are actually good to work with.

soft blue

New
Posts: 86
Joined: Mon Jun 10, 2019 10:59 am

Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by soft blue » Sun Jul 26, 2020 10:32 pm

EzraFitz wrote:
Sun Jul 26, 2020 10:13 pm
There are a shocking number of people here who don't realize that not all big law is the same, and that there are plenty of shops out there who give the dignity that many here agree should be happening. The people acting like "that's big law, take your money and deal with it" need a bit of a reality check... That might be the job you have, the thing that makes sense for you, but trying to normalize it is misguided.
These people all sound like they're juniors for the worst M&A partner at my firm. I generally speaking haven't had experiences anywhere near this bad, though I share the usual gripes (I work too much, I wish I could be "off", I hate cancelling plans, managing upwards can be a pain, some clients are awful, etc.) I dunno, I'm reasonably happy? (I'm in a specialist corp practice -- not M&A -- and I don't do much thoughtless work, I like ~90% of the people I have substantial interactions with, my partners are respectful and reasonably invested in my career, and I find the subject matter genuinely interesting. Maybe I got the 1-in-a-million job?) I am at a NYC v20 FWIW, not like I'm talking about Omaha "biglaw" or whatever.

Anonymous User
Posts: 350605
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Jul 30, 2020 3:21 am

It's almost 100% dependent on whom you work for, internally and externally. I've worked in two places; now a senior associate.

In place 1, I was expected to bill 2400+ hours a year. I worked 7 days a week as a norm and not an exception. During the week, I usually was in the office around 8am-8pm, often till 10pm or later (and later emails regardless). I slept in the office once or twice a month. My primary boss was a screaming, workaholic, perfectionist jackass. I hated my job. And frankly, my life. A large chunk of the work I did was menial crap that I didn't give a shit about.

In place 2, I initially billed around 2k per year. During that timeframe, I was usually in the office around 9am-6:30pm and worked maybe 6-12 weekend hours a month. I stopped pulling all nighters and sleeping at the office but still occasionally had late (1-2am) nights. I genuinely enjoyed people I worked with and was intellectually challenged. I moved to 70 or 80% part time after a while, which was even better, because it gave me 3-day weekends. Eventually I became a contract attorney, getting paid hourly (based on a % of billing rate, billing as a partner-track associate) and working 100% remotely. Life was pretty fucking sweet in many ways during that time; I billed 20-25 hours a week, had 95% of my weekends to myself, etc. I'm now back to part-time associate, which still gives me freedom to do things I enjoy, albeit on a less committing/more reach-able scale. I work occasionally on the weekends; maybe 1-2 hours on average (often zero hours, sometimes 2-3 hours, occasionally 6-8 hours). My work is still pretty intellectually demanding and I still enjoy the people I work with. My bosses, for the most part, actively try to protect weekend and holiday time for both themselves and associates.

The differences between the two places are (1)the bosses, (2) the type of work (I changed practice focus) and correspondingly the type of client (now mostly internal vs. external previously), (3) becoming valuable enough to establish boundaries, and (4) becoming willing to trade on that value. Closed mouths don't get fed.

Anonymous User
Posts: 350605
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by Anonymous User » Sun Aug 02, 2020 1:26 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Jul 30, 2020 3:21 am
It's almost 100% dependent on whom you work for, internally and externally. I've worked in two places; now a senior associate.

In place 1, I was expected to bill 2400+ hours a year. I worked 7 days a week as a norm and not an exception. During the week, I usually was in the office around 8am-8pm, often till 10pm or later (and later emails regardless). I slept in the office once or twice a month. My primary boss was a screaming, workaholic, perfectionist jackass. I hated my job. And frankly, my life. A large chunk of the work I did was menial crap that I didn't give a shit about.

In place 2, I initially billed around 2k per year. During that timeframe, I was usually in the office around 9am-6:30pm and worked maybe 6-12 weekend hours a month. I stopped pulling all nighters and sleeping at the office but still occasionally had late (1-2am) nights. I genuinely enjoyed people I worked with and was intellectually challenged. I moved to 70 or 80% part time after a while, which was even better, because it gave me 3-day weekends. Eventually I became a contract attorney, getting paid hourly (based on a % of billing rate, billing as a partner-track associate) and working 100% remotely. Life was pretty fucking sweet in many ways during that time; I billed 20-25 hours a week, had 95% of my weekends to myself, etc. I'm now back to part-time associate, which still gives me freedom to do things I enjoy, albeit on a less committing/more reach-able scale. I work occasionally on the weekends; maybe 1-2 hours on average (often zero hours, sometimes 2-3 hours, occasionally 6-8 hours). My work is still pretty intellectually demanding and I still enjoy the people I work with. My bosses, for the most part, actively try to protect weekend and holiday time for both themselves and associates.

The differences between the two places are (1)the bosses, (2) the type of work (I changed practice focus) and correspondingly the type of client (now mostly internal vs. external previously), (3) becoming valuable enough to establish boundaries, and (4) becoming willing to trade on that value. Closed mouths don't get fed.
Your part-time schedule seems to be my ideal long-term solution. Are you paid 70-80% of an associate of your level's salary? I have fairly good relationships with many of the partners I work for as a 4th year and after 3-5 more years of this, plan to request the same 50-80% part-time schedule.

If you asked your firm if you could work 8 months on and 4 months off, do you think they would be as receptive (versus working 3-4 days/week)?

Want to continue reading?

Register for access!

Did I mention it was FREE ?


yankees12345!

New
Posts: 39
Joined: Mon Jan 26, 2015 11:43 pm

Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by yankees12345! » Mon Aug 03, 2020 8:42 am

I had the same reservations as OP, but my experience has been pretty good.

I’m in a secondary market office of a V50 on the full salary scale. I pretty much only work for partners in our office, and the tight knit group has gotten to know each other pretty well. None of us are trying to work late nights or weekends unnecessarily. It sometimes happens, but there’s a general understanding that’s not the goal.

I have friends who have had truly terrible experiences in big law. People in my office in different practice groups grind much more. I think it really depends on the partners you’ll be working with and the vibe of the group.

Unfortunately, there’s very little way to learn about those things without a summer associate gig or a friend on the inside. I would recommend students split their summer between two firms and pick the one that seems like a better place to work lifestyle-wise.

Big law isn’t something I especially wanted to do, but I kinda needed it to pay down student loans. I think it was probably the right decision for me, as I’ve now banked more than enough to pay them, and it hasn’t been a terrible experience because my group has reasonable people.

Anonymous User
Posts: 350605
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Aug 03, 2020 1:40 pm

yankees12345! wrote:
Mon Aug 03, 2020 8:42 am
Unfortunately, there’s very little way to learn about those things without a summer associate gig or a friend on the inside.
RIP to all of us doing virtual summers. It's really hard to get a sense of the culture of the various practice groups via Zoom. Blindly forth we go.

Anonymous User
Posts: 350605
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Aug 05, 2020 3:01 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Sun Aug 02, 2020 1:26 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Jul 30, 2020 3:21 am
It's almost 100% dependent on whom you work for, internally and externally. I've worked in two places; now a senior associate.

In place 1, I was expected to bill 2400+ hours a year. I worked 7 days a week as a norm and not an exception. During the week, I usually was in the office around 8am-8pm, often till 10pm or later (and later emails regardless). I slept in the office once or twice a month. My primary boss was a screaming, workaholic, perfectionist jackass. I hated my job. And frankly, my life. A large chunk of the work I did was menial crap that I didn't give a shit about.

In place 2, I initially billed around 2k per year. During that timeframe, I was usually in the office around 9am-6:30pm and worked maybe 6-12 weekend hours a month. I stopped pulling all nighters and sleeping at the office but still occasionally had late (1-2am) nights. I genuinely enjoyed people I worked with and was intellectually challenged. I moved to 70 or 80% part time after a while, which was even better, because it gave me 3-day weekends. Eventually I became a contract attorney, getting paid hourly (based on a % of billing rate, billing as a partner-track associate) and working 100% remotely. Life was pretty fucking sweet in many ways during that time; I billed 20-25 hours a week, had 95% of my weekends to myself, etc. I'm now back to part-time associate, which still gives me freedom to do things I enjoy, albeit on a less committing/more reach-able scale. I work occasionally on the weekends; maybe 1-2 hours on average (often zero hours, sometimes 2-3 hours, occasionally 6-8 hours). My work is still pretty intellectually demanding and I still enjoy the people I work with. My bosses, for the most part, actively try to protect weekend and holiday time for both themselves and associates.

The differences between the two places are (1)the bosses, (2) the type of work (I changed practice focus) and correspondingly the type of client (now mostly internal vs. external previously), (3) becoming valuable enough to establish boundaries, and (4) becoming willing to trade on that value. Closed mouths don't get fed.
Your part-time schedule seems to be my ideal long-term solution. Are you paid 70-80% of an associate of your level's salary? I have fairly good relationships with many of the partners I work for as a 4th year and after 3-5 more years of this, plan to request the same 50-80% part-time schedule.

If you asked your firm if you could work 8 months on and 4 months off, do you think they would be as receptive (versus working 3-4 days/week)?
As a part-time associate I get prorated salary, hours target, and bonus. The target % is based on the number necessary to qualify for benefits (most importantly, health insurance). I strongly doubt that they would be okay with the 8/4 idea; that leaves them with a full-time associate for 2/3 of the year and nobody to fill those shoes the other four months. I don't think any biglaw practice is that cyclical. Maybe accountants could pull it off, but probably not in the big 4 context. I also wouldn't expect to truly have Th/F truly "off" - more likely you'll have them "off" the same way that you currently have regular weekends, but with higher likelihood of interruption. The on-demand aspect is just part of being outside counsel; best you can hope for is to be in an inherently more stable practice (e.g., some kind of regulatory or planning role).

Register now!

Resources to assist law school applicants, students & graduates.

It's still FREE!


Post Reply Post Anonymous Reply  

Return to “Legal Employment”