How bad is Big Law life?

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Jul 22, 2020 12:03 pm

This may be specific to my (former) firm, but I found the culture beat me down more than the hours/unpredictability did. I definitely had nights, weekends and vacations that were ruined, and it did get to me that I felt like I had no ability to maintain any kind of consistent routine (waking up and going to sleep at the same time, diet, exercise, etc.), but it was really the atmosphere at the firm that I couldn’t take.

It wasn’t so much that people were cutthroat (although some were), it was more how backwards and irrational everything felt. As someone else mentioned, partners would let clients make objectively insane requests (or, worse, suggest objectively insane things to the client) and there was zero acknowledgement that, no, it’s not necessary or reasonable to suggest to the government that we present to them next week when they asked us to present sometime in the next couple of months. Similarly, although I do think there was some effort to save the most important work for senior associates who were somewhat competent, there were still innumerable cases worth millions of dollars being run by complete imbeciles, so I would spend all my time explaining to some condescending 8th year who couldn’t be bothered to read my emails why his “ideas that might be helpful” made no sense, after which he presented my work to the partner as if it was his own and no one ever acknowledged that he was an idiot or that I was the one actually doing all of the work.

Meanwhile, 95% of the people around you hate their jobs and their lives and just want to do the bare minimum and get out ASAP, while the other 5% think that what you’re doing is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER AND HOW COULD YOU PREFER GOING TO THE GYM OVER YET ANOTHER CLIENT CALL?

Anyway, it started to feel like maybe I was the crazy one and maybe we DID need to rush the presentation for no reason and maybe 8th year idiot IS actually a genius. On top of that, because people blow even the most minor errors massively out of proportion (and everything is always SUPER URGENT), I spent a not insignificant amount of time worrying about errors that I might have missed, or feeling like shit about errors that someone had just caught. I got good reviews, and I do think I learned some valuable skills at my firm (not least of which was a tolerance for pain), but I truly cannot fathom why people choose to stay in biglaw long-term. I would NEVER recommend it to someone who has a job that they’re reasonably happy with. I also think there can be a bias against people lateraling in from “worse” firms, but it may just be that my firm was full of snobs so YMMV.

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Jul 22, 2020 12:13 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Jul 22, 2020 12:03 pm
This may be specific to my (former) firm, but I found the culture beat me down more than the hours/unpredictability did. I definitely had nights, weekends and vacations that were ruined, and it did get to me that I felt like I had no ability to maintain any kind of consistent routine (waking up and going to sleep at the same time, diet, exercise, etc.), but it was really the atmosphere at the firm that I couldn’t take.

It wasn’t so much that people were cutthroat (although some were), it was more how backwards and irrational everything felt. As someone else mentioned, partners would let clients make objectively insane requests (or, worse, suggest objectively insane things to the client) and there was zero acknowledgement that, no, it’s not necessary or reasonable to suggest to the government that we present to them next week when they asked us to present sometime in the next couple of months. Similarly, although I do think there was some effort to save the most important work for senior associates who were somewhat competent, there were still innumerable cases worth millions of dollars being run by complete imbeciles, so I would spend all my time explaining to some condescending 8th year who couldn’t be bothered to read my emails why his “ideas that might be helpful” made no sense, after which he presented my work to the partner as if it was his own and no one ever acknowledged that he was an idiot or that I was the one actually doing all of the work.

Meanwhile, 95% of the people around you hate their jobs and their lives and just want to do the bare minimum and get out ASAP, while the other 5% think that what you’re doing is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER AND HOW COULD YOU PREFER GOING TO THE GYM OVER YET ANOTHER CLIENT CALL?

Anyway, it started to feel like maybe I was the crazy one and maybe we DID need to rush the presentation for no reason and maybe 8th year idiot IS actually a genius. On top of that, because people blow even the most minor errors massively out of proportion (and everything is always SUPER URGENT), I spent a not insignificant amount of time worrying about errors that I might have missed, or feeling like shit about errors that someone had just caught. I got good reviews, and I do think I learned some valuable skills at my firm (not least of which was a tolerance for pain), but I truly cannot fathom why people choose to stay in biglaw long-term. I would NEVER recommend it to someone who has a job that they’re reasonably happy with. I also think there can be a bias against people lateraling in from “worse” firms, but it may just be that my firm was full of snobs so YMMV.
Generally agree with all this, but also want to say that the comp at the upper associate levels is truly life changing (~$400k) and is worth sticking out for a few years for many.

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by TigerIsBack » Wed Jul 22, 2020 12:20 pm

In my experience some days are better than others. Sometimes I'm looking at in house jobs first thing on Monday morning, and other days (usually after a couple of non-working weekends in a row) I think I want to grind it out and try to make partner.

Either way, I'm hoping there will be solace in having fully paid off my loans when that comes (still $210k to go).

FWIW, I work in an M&A group where the hours are pretty bad, but all of the personalities in my group are great so that definitely helps a ton. People respect your time when you take vacation and actually value associates taking vacation (understanding that this job is tough and hoping that associates come back from said vacation ready to grind again).

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Jul 22, 2020 1:24 pm

TigerIsBack wrote:
Wed Jul 22, 2020 12:20 pm
In my experience some days are better than others. Sometimes I'm looking at in house jobs first thing on Monday morning, and other days (usually after a couple of non-working weekends in a row) I think I want to grind it out and try to make partner.

Either way, I'm hoping there will be solace in having fully paid off my loans when that comes (still $210k to go).

FWIW, I work in an M&A group where the hours are pretty bad, but all of the personalities in my group are great so that definitely helps a ton. People respect your time when you take vacation and actually value associates taking vacation (understanding that this job is tough and hoping that associates come back from said vacation ready to grind again).
Man, I've been there with that debt and its not a pretty sight. As someone that was pretty much in your shoes at a top firm (good colleagues, respected vacation, etc.) and massive debt load, it gets a lot worse and I suggest looking to go in-house as soon as possible if you have the chance and find a good opportunity. I know the money won't be the same, but you will save yourself some major heartache, mental health issues and physical health issues. Additionally, I'm finding that each in-house job likes to see other in-house experience and I think the traditional firm --> in-house pipeline is starting to break down.

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by objctnyrhnr » Wed Jul 22, 2020 1:55 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Jul 22, 2020 12:13 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Jul 22, 2020 12:03 pm
This may be specific to my (former) firm, but I found the culture beat me down more than the hours/unpredictability did. I definitely had nights, weekends and vacations that were ruined, and it did get to me that I felt like I had no ability to maintain any kind of consistent routine (waking up and going to sleep at the same time, diet, exercise, etc.), but it was really the atmosphere at the firm that I couldn’t take.

It wasn’t so much that people were cutthroat (although some were), it was more how backwards and irrational everything felt. As someone else mentioned, partners would let clients make objectively insane requests (or, worse, suggest objectively insane things to the client) and there was zero acknowledgement that, no, it’s not necessary or reasonable to suggest to the government that we present to them next week when they asked us to present sometime in the next couple of months. Similarly, although I do think there was some effort to save the most important work for senior associates who were somewhat competent, there were still innumerable cases worth millions of dollars being run by complete imbeciles, so I would spend all my time explaining to some condescending 8th year who couldn’t be bothered to read my emails why his “ideas that might be helpful” made no sense, after which he presented my work to the partner as if it was his own and no one ever acknowledged that he was an idiot or that I was the one actually doing all of the work.

Meanwhile, 95% of the people around you hate their jobs and their lives and just want to do the bare minimum and get out ASAP, while the other 5% think that what you’re doing is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER AND HOW COULD YOU PREFER GOING TO THE GYM OVER YET ANOTHER CLIENT CALL?

Anyway, it started to feel like maybe I was the crazy one and maybe we DID need to rush the presentation for no reason and maybe 8th year idiot IS actually a genius. On top of that, because people blow even the most minor errors massively out of proportion (and everything is always SUPER URGENT), I spent a not insignificant amount of time worrying about errors that I might have missed, or feeling like shit about errors that someone had just caught. I got good reviews, and I do think I learned some valuable skills at my firm (not least of which was a tolerance for pain), but I truly cannot fathom why people choose to stay in biglaw long-term. I would NEVER recommend it to someone who has a job that they’re reasonably happy with. I also think there can be a bias against people lateraling in from “worse” firms, but it may just be that my firm was full of snobs so YMMV.
Generally agree with all this, but also want to say that the comp at the upper associate levels is truly life changing (~$400k) and is worth sticking out for a few years for many.
Let’s explore this for a bit. For you senior associates, how many of us are chasing some existing, approximate, or TBD specific figure of savings that will then generate us (and our families) passive income to supplement the income from our next gig (govt in house or whatever) that will inevitably entail a massive pay cut?

Any thoughts or experience on this—from former senior associates or current senior associates with family, mortgage, etc.? I personally really want to get to a point where the whole mortgage plus property tax and insurance gets paid through passive income. That’s my financial goal (so to speak) before I’d start to consider leaving. (Non flyover relatively high COL suburb in major-ish market; v25 firm.)

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Jul 22, 2020 2:01 pm

To add on to what others have already said in this thread, I get the most sad when I think about the type of person I was before big law and law school. I feel like I was way more confident, and while I was never the cheeriest, most optimistic person, I’ve reached a new level of cynicism that I can only attribute to my career choice. I think I would feel less disillusioned if I was unhappy with my place in life because I had slacked off in my younger years, but I’m especially bitter because I feel like I sunk so much time, effort and money only to spend the vast majority of my waking hours stressed and/or unhappy for what seems like years now.

The whole COVID situation hasn’t helped. While it forced everyone to WFH, and work slowed down in my practice group (M&A), it honestly has made me feel worse about this job. Outside life just seems like a shell of what it used to be, so there’s even less to escape to outside of work. It also makes me feel like I wasted all the “good” normal years pre-COVID being a stressed, unhappy lawyer. I’ve been applying to in-house positions but have had zero bites and feel like my T6 diploma, mid-level big law experience in general corporate/M&A is getting me nowhere (apologies if that sounds entitled), so I totally understand the poster who’s a seventh year corporate associate with the same frustrations.

I thought this time would allow me to decompress and get reenergized, but I feel even more deflated. Since my practice area slowed down (through no fault of my own), my hours have gone down the drain despite a busy first half of the year, so I’m just wallowing in the slowness trying to ignore my anxiety about job security while dreading work rearing its ugly head again. Sucks to feel like my life is constantly derailed by things outside of my control (by client and partner-driven firedrills pre-Covid, now by a shitty economy thanks to Covid). My only saving grace is that my student loans are paid off, and my spouse has a more stable, decent-paying job (knock on wood). Any tips for a better and more positive attitude are welcome.

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Jul 22, 2020 2:51 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Jul 22, 2020 2:01 pm
To add on to what others have already said in this thread, I get the most sad when I think about the type of person I was before big law and law school. I feel like I was way more confident, and while I was never the cheeriest, most optimistic person, I’ve reached a new level of cynicism that I can only attribute to my career choice. I think I would feel less disillusioned if I was unhappy with my place in life because I had slacked off in my younger years, but I’m especially bitter because I feel like I sunk so much time, effort and money only to spend the vast majority of my waking hours stressed and/or unhappy for what seems like years now.

The whole COVID situation hasn’t helped. While it forced everyone to WFH, and work slowed down in my practice group (M&A), it honestly has made me feel worse about this job. Outside life just seems like a shell of what it used to be, so there’s even less to escape to outside of work. It also makes me feel like I wasted all the “good” normal years pre-COVID being a stressed, unhappy lawyer. I’ve been applying to in-house positions but have had zero bites and feel like my T6 diploma, mid-level big law experience in general corporate/M&A is getting me nowhere (apologies if that sounds entitled), so I totally understand the poster who’s a seventh year corporate associate with the same frustrations.

I thought this time would allow me to decompress and get reenergized, but I feel even more deflated. Since my practice area slowed down (through no fault of my own), my hours have gone down the drain despite a busy first half of the year, so I’m just wallowing in the slowness trying to ignore my anxiety about job security while dreading work rearing its ugly head again. Sucks to feel like my life is constantly derailed by things outside of my control (by client and partner-driven firedrills pre-Covid, now by a shitty economy thanks to Covid). My only saving grace is that my student loans are paid off, and my spouse has a more stable, decent-paying job (knock on wood). Any tips for a better and more positive attitude are welcome.
As someone who is only staying in to pay down loans, I would just advise that you leave biglaw altogether. As this thread and innumerable ones like it suggest, the problem is likely not you, the problem is the culture and workload at most of our firms. I don't fault you for being miserable in biglaw. A lot of people are. But it seems like you have the freedom to leave (at least from the perspective of someone who needs this salary to service their debt on a manageable timeline), so if I were you, I would leave. I would bet that the more positive attitude would follow.

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Jul 22, 2020 3:23 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Jul 22, 2020 12:13 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Jul 22, 2020 12:03 pm
This may be specific to my (former) firm, but I found the culture beat me down more than the hours/unpredictability did. I definitely had nights, weekends and vacations that were ruined, and it did get to me that I felt like I had no ability to maintain any kind of consistent routine (waking up and going to sleep at the same time, diet, exercise, etc.), but it was really the atmosphere at the firm that I couldn’t take.

It wasn’t so much that people were cutthroat (although some were), it was more how backwards and irrational everything felt. As someone else mentioned, partners would let clients make objectively insane requests (or, worse, suggest objectively insane things to the client) and there was zero acknowledgement that, no, it’s not necessary or reasonable to suggest to the government that we present to them next week when they asked us to present sometime in the next couple of months. Similarly, although I do think there was some effort to save the most important work for senior associates who were somewhat competent, there were still innumerable cases worth millions of dollars being run by complete imbeciles, so I would spend all my time explaining to some condescending 8th year who couldn’t be bothered to read my emails why his “ideas that might be helpful” made no sense, after which he presented my work to the partner as if it was his own and no one ever acknowledged that he was an idiot or that I was the one actually doing all of the work.

Meanwhile, 95% of the people around you hate their jobs and their lives and just want to do the bare minimum and get out ASAP, while the other 5% think that what you’re doing is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER AND HOW COULD YOU PREFER GOING TO THE GYM OVER YET ANOTHER CLIENT CALL?

Anyway, it started to feel like maybe I was the crazy one and maybe we DID need to rush the presentation for no reason and maybe 8th year idiot IS actually a genius. On top of that, because people blow even the most minor errors massively out of proportion (and everything is always SUPER URGENT), I spent a not insignificant amount of time worrying about errors that I might have missed, or feeling like shit about errors that someone had just caught. I got good reviews, and I do think I learned some valuable skills at my firm (not least of which was a tolerance for pain), but I truly cannot fathom why people choose to stay in biglaw long-term. I would NEVER recommend it to someone who has a job that they’re reasonably happy with. I also think there can be a bias against people lateraling in from “worse” firms, but it may just be that my firm was full of snobs so YMMV.
Generally agree with all this, but also want to say that the comp at the upper associate levels is truly life changing (~$400k) and is worth sticking out for a few years for many.
For me, its saving cash to put a down payment on a house. I've just paid down my loans and looking to save $100k. That should take a year or two. I don't know how else I would be able to save this if I wasn't in biglaw.

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by Yugihoe » Wed Jul 22, 2020 3:32 pm

objctnyrhnr wrote:
Wed Jul 22, 2020 1:55 pm


Let’s explore this for a bit. For you senior associates, how many of us are chasing some existing, approximate, or TBD specific figure of savings that will then generate us (and our families) passive income to supplement the income from our next gig (govt in house or whatever) that will inevitably entail a massive pay cut?

Any thoughts or experience on this—from former senior associates or current senior associates with family, mortgage, etc.? I personally really want to get to a point where the whole mortgage plus property tax and insurance gets paid through passive income. That’s my financial goal (so to speak) before I’d start to consider leaving. (Non flyover relatively high COL suburb in major-ish market; v25 firm.)
That's a good goal. What do you define as passive income though? Using 4% rule on total invested portfolio?

Also: viewtopic.php?f=23&t=300615

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Jul 22, 2020 3:39 pm

Was in a transactional practice group at a V30 for a few years as a junior. Hated my life. Like, honestly didn't know I could hate life so much. I'm a positive guy -- I think there were periods where biglaw legitimately had me borderline suicidal. It was miserable and not at all worth the money. I applied to several in house positions that wouldn't have been good fits just to get away. I reached final interviews several times but never actually got an offer -- probably in part because despite my best efforts I think it was impossible to hide how miserable I was. Several people my class year in the group burned out, and I think I saw every female associate in the group who was 4th-year-and-below literally crying in their office at least once. Never saw a male associate cry, but everyone was always talking about trying to leave. It was just all consumingly horrible.

Changed practice groups. Routinely get random emails at 10pm requiring same day work. Will have maybe 1 Saturday or Sunday without at least 3-5 hours work in a given month, and usually 2 weekends per month that are legitimate 8 hour work days each day. I find the work generally on the boring side and rote. But the people I actually work with are no longer psychopaths. I could ride this out as an associate indefinitely, I think, from a day-to-day perspective. But would probably look back after 20 years and feel like I wasted my life.

So that's where I'm at now. Will reassess in another 18 months once these loans are disposed of. Higher education is a scam, but in the long run I think it's all still better than working the minimum wage service jobs that all my peers from my hometown ended up doing. Still, if I could go back in time, I'd definitely slap myself for not going into engineering like I'd originally planned leaving high school.
Last edited by Anonymous User on Wed Jul 22, 2020 3:48 pm, edited 2 times in total.

objctnyrhnr

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by objctnyrhnr » Wed Jul 22, 2020 3:40 pm

Yugihoe wrote:
Wed Jul 22, 2020 3:32 pm
objctnyrhnr wrote:
Wed Jul 22, 2020 1:55 pm


Let’s explore this for a bit. For you senior associates, how many of us are chasing some existing, approximate, or TBD specific figure of savings that will then generate us (and our families) passive income to supplement the income from our next gig (govt in house or whatever) that will inevitably entail a massive pay cut?

Any thoughts or experience on this—from former senior associates or current senior associates with family, mortgage, etc.? I personally really want to get to a point where the whole mortgage plus property tax and insurance gets paid through passive income. That’s my financial goal (so to speak) before I’d start to consider leaving. (Non flyover relatively high COL suburb in major-ish market; v25 firm.)
That's a good goal. What do you define as passive income though? Using 4% rule on total invested portfolio?

Also: viewtopic.php?f=23&t=300615
Appreciate it. Im trying not to derail this thread to discuss numbers specifically (appreciate the question and link on that topic though).

I was more wondering more broadly if other mids/seniors were like me in wanting to save to a certain specific point before leaving biglaw, with the intention of supplementing income at a future job. And if so, is it a total number or some other type of goal?

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Jul 22, 2020 3:50 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Jul 22, 2020 3:39 pm
But the people I actually work with are no longer psychopaths.

For me this is the most important variable, which is why it's so hard to generalize about how bad "big law life" is. Some of the terrible parts of the job are inescapable regardless of practice group/office/geographic location etc, but who you're working with primarily determines how tolerable your life is, in my opinion.

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Jul 22, 2020 3:54 pm

Obviously OP should consider the median case, not an outlier, but it seems worth giving another perspective.

I'm a second year in DC litigation and have enjoyed it. More than half of the work is interesting, and the only things that have required intense hours are writing-heavy projects that I would want to do anyway. After one or two heavy months, I have been able to just not take extra work for a bit. Usually, that's as easy as not mentioning to anybody that the motion / whatever I was busy on has been filed.

But I haven't worked with any psychotic partners, and haven't had anyone get mad at me. That would suck. All the partners I've worked with seem really good at what they do and work hard. A few of them also show small kindnesses like flagging in a Friday afternoon email that I've been working hard and should be sure not to deal with whatever the email says until after the weekend. I like working with people who are excellent at what they do, and I get paid a lot to think about things, read, and write. That's not a bad life. FWIW, I enjoyed law school/law review/etc. for similar reasons.

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Jul 22, 2020 4:03 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Jul 22, 2020 3:54 pm
Obviously OP should consider the median case, not an outlier, but it seems worth giving another perspective.

I'm a second year in DC litigation and have enjoyed it. More than half of the work is interesting, and the only things that have required intense hours are writing-heavy projects that I would want to do anyway. After one or two heavy months, I have been able to just not take extra work for a bit. Usually, that's as easy as not mentioning to anybody that the motion / whatever I was busy on has been filed.

But I haven't worked with any psychotic partners, and haven't had anyone get mad at me. That would suck. All the partners I've worked with seem really good at what they do and work hard. A few of them also show small kindnesses like flagging in a Friday afternoon email that I've been working hard and should be sure not to deal with whatever the email says until after the weekend. I like working with people who are excellent at what they do, and I get paid a lot to think about things, read, and write. That's not a bad life. FWIW, I enjoyed law school/law review/etc. for similar reasons.

I've had a similar, though not quite as positive, experience as a junior in lit. Based on this thread and other anecdotal evidence from friends, I often wonder if certain transactional groups (M&A, cap markets) are the most difficult areas to work in on the whole.

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Jul 22, 2020 4:09 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Tue Jul 21, 2020 11:43 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Tue Jul 21, 2020 9:55 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Tue Jul 21, 2020 8:32 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Tue Jul 21, 2020 5:29 pm
I am an incoming associate at a small-ish biglaw firm that seems fairly humane. I plan to do biglaw for 1-3 years and go in house at basically the first decent opportunity (I am willing to take a substantial paycut). I have no debt and a decent amount of savings due to an inheritance. I'm basically doing biglaw for: (1) the resume line and (2) a year or two of the biglaw pay to add to my savings/investments.

Is the mental pressure easier to deal with when you don't have loans to pay off and you're really just hoping to coast until a decent in house opportunity comes along? I'm hoping that I can just be an average associate and worry less about things like billables, especially as I get closer to becoming a realistic candidate for in house positions.
It’s no better even without the financial pressures. You can’t say “no thanks” when a partner emails you at 10 pm and asks you to turn it around by morning. If you do, you’ll get fired and won’t be able to get that in-house job.

These are pressures of people just trying to survive in biglaw. I don’t have many financial pressures keeping me in biglaw, but the fear of getting fired keeps me going until I’m senior enough to go in-house (hopefully one more year). I’ve contemplated quitting many times, but I know that I need to stick it out at this firm or a similar firm to get a nice in-house position.

Inheritance or not, I’m assuming you’re a person who would rather not get fired. If so, like many of us, you will deal with the bad times while practicing.
Coming from V20 - you will not get fired for ignoring a partner to turn something around by next morning at 10pm. Said partner may give you a bad review in the future if he remembers, but its not a job ending thing. The only time you may have a problem, at least in corporate, is if you are on a live deal, in which case the 10pm email is generally expected anyway.
I’m the quoted anon. I didn’t mean they’d get fired on the spot, but there would be almost no chance they lasted past 1 to one and a half years if they did that, which is not long enough to get that in-house role.
I'm a fourth year at a v10 who has gotten away with moderate hours and good reviews. For me, the key has been keeping a manageable number of deals at any given time. Of course, for the deals I am on I have to be responsive and can't really push back on assignments (but I do negotiate deadlines or try to get out in front of them with my own timeline).

If I have 2-3 active things on my plate, I'm also comfortable saying no to new deals. The key is to always be prepared to explain your availability because it can happen very quickly that someone pops in your office looking to staff you and if you just go with the flow and say yes, you might have just signed yourself up for a horrible next 3-6 months. If you say no, people tend to move on and forget pretty quickly. Much better in my view to say no and focus on doing good work on the deals you have. Even though my firm has central staffing, if I know a deal is wrapping up in a couple weeks, I will strategically try to get on something new that is kicking off with a partner I like to work for. Because once you have nothing on your plate, you're exposed and can't say no to bad work.

FWIW, I've noticed while I am busier as a mid-level, I find the job a lot more predictable because as long as I am not being micromanaged, I have fair amount of control over when my work gets done. If I want to take a couple hours and ignore my inbox after 6pm, I can usually get away with that and just go back online later unless there is a closing or something imminent.

Re: coasting to in-house. Don't think that is a good idea. If you are really coasting (not just not gunning), you should have some sort of plan if you are asked to leave at your next review. In-house isn't that kind of thing and with COVID, I'm not sure you can rely on the lateral market just letting you jump ship to another firm. So if you are really going to coast, I would have a solid back up plan that you are happy with if you get asked to leave with 3 months notice.

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Jul 22, 2020 4:13 pm

As a mid-level, I'd say it generally gets worse. Yes, you can delegate a lot of work you don't want to do, but you you have to review/edit basically everything the juniors do (which can range from minor edits to completely redoing things) and deal directly with demanding clients and partners at the same time. There is still a lot you don't know, but you are largely left to figure it out. So even if you were working less (which you aren't), the work you are doing is significantly more stressful. Sure, it's stressful when you are a first year and don't know anything, but at least you are protected by multiple layers of review. As a mid-level, your screw ups are noticed directly by the partners (or nobody was reviewing/monitoring you, and you screw up actually turns into a real screw up).

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nealric

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by nealric » Wed Jul 22, 2020 4:24 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Jul 22, 2020 4:13 pm
As a mid-level, I'd say it generally gets worse. Yes, you can delegate a lot of work you don't want to do, but you you have to review/edit basically everything the juniors do (which can range from minor edits to completely redoing things) and deal directly with demanding clients and partners at the same time. There is still a lot you don't know, but you are largely left to figure it out. So even if you were working less (which you aren't), the work you are doing is significantly more stressful. Sure, it's stressful when you are a first year and don't know anything, but at least you are protected by multiple layers of review. As a mid-level, your screw ups are noticed directly by the partners (or nobody was reviewing/monitoring you, and you screw up actually turns into a real screw up).
The "stuck in the middle" problem can depend somewhat by how large your department is and your practice area. I was never supervised by associates in biglaw simply because there were too few in my department for that occur, nor did I have to review much junior work as there was only ever one junior person below me. My work also didn't really change that much between junior and mid-level as there just isn't that much work in tax that is specifically junior work.

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by TheoO » Wed Jul 22, 2020 5:42 pm

Can we just make some subforum where people can post this stuff? Not that it stops other, including myself, from continually posting about experiences (maybe we just seem to enjoy this as some form of venting?).

One of the common discussions my law school/firm friends and I commiserate over is how dumb we were to choose law over virtually any other field, which almost always seem to be more interesting and all less numbing/insufferable than our careers. In lockdown with my wife, from whom I usually hide my work stuff, she commented on how horribly dull/rote our work is (granted, she does works in reg at a bank, so pot, kettle, black). Still: I see others living their life often from instagram moments during downtime. Kicking myself for not doing engineering or something more interesting, and then feeling like I'm trapped cuz debt.

Summary: Everyone I know whose not a lawyer had to adjust to how little they see me, how irregular my appearances at events is, how often I have to whip out my laptop and find a corner to send some doc/redraft something, how often I have to leave early/arrive late, keep my phone on the table and continually look at it during convos, pick up calls and walk away from the table, come back, write an email (which can take forever when you're seated in a loud table and after maybe a drink), potentially another call. Sit down and then feel tense, and unable to resume conversations because my concentration to others is off. I'm stressed when busy, get stressed when not busy for any prolonged period, find it hard to keep connections with others due to above complaints, often too tired to do weekend things when I don't have work (which is a bummer for my wife, who often spends weekends with friends and not me).

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Jul 22, 2020 6:31 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Jul 22, 2020 11:11 am
nealric wrote:
Wed Jul 22, 2020 10:41 am
Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Jul 22, 2020 8:07 am
Re: partner email at 10 pm... what if you’re asleep? Do y’all set certain alert tones for partners so that if something is truly important, you’ll wake up to read it?
Former biglaw associate: I don't think I ever went to bed before 11 in biglaw. Especially in NYC, it's a late to bed late to rise culture. Some partners would occasionally email in the middle of the night, but there was no expectation of an immediate reply at 3AM unless you were in total deal crunch time (in which case you were probably in the office).

To answer the OP: how bad it is can really run the gambit in terms of how "hop to" you need to be and how crushing the hours are. There are biglaw jobs that are a fairly consistent 50 hours a week and there are biglaw jobs where you are getting hammered with 100 hour weeks regularly. There are partners that expect an "aye aye sir" within 5 minutes of any email, and there are partners that are fairly chill. It's very difficult to know in advance which situation you will be in. However, the higher-strung biglaw situation is more likely in practices like M&A, in NYC, and at higher valut ranked firms. It is less likely in knowledge-based niche practices like Benefits/ERISA, secondary markets, and lower ranked firms. However, that doesn't mean you can't get crushed by work and berated by a tyrant at some midwestern midlaw firm either.

Also, everyone has a different breaking point. I liken it to running a race. Some people can't fathom running a 5k, some go for the marathon but hit a wall at mile 18. Others finish the marathon gritting their teeth. Others are born ultramarathoners. Likewise, everyone has their tolerance level for biglaw. Some need to get out immediately, others hit their breaking point as a mid/senior associate, and others thrive as partners. It may be hard to know where you fit in until you do it.
This is a good point. I'm a senior ERISA associate at a big L&E firm in a secondary market.

I like to think I'm fairly good at my job because I'm in demand (though it could just be out of necessity). I hit 2200+ hours last year and generally have been 2050+ the 3 years before that. Although I do work a lot, my workload is steady and predictable. It's one thing to bill 45+ on a consistent basis each week compared to working 100 hour weeks every few weeks. It still feels like a grind at times, but I usually try to work longer days and am able to avoid working nearly all weekends. We might get pulled in on ERISA/exec comp issues on a deal every once in a while, but otherwise my group has very little in the way of "it's 10pm, I need this done ASAP."

Now, my pay is probably 15% lower than the general practice firms in the area, but the quality of life generally is pretty good - I take vacation, I see my kids, go to bed at 9pm if I'm tired, etc. - so I see it as a fair tradeoff.

If someone is losing their sanity in the NYC market, a shift to a lower ranked firm + secondary market seems like the best way to claw some of that back (as long as the paycut isn't too bad).
Would you say the L&E group for your firm is like that overall, including in markets like SF? If yes, would you be willing to share which firm you are with? (Or blend it with another firm you would recommend if that helps protect your identity?)

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Jul 22, 2020 6:33 pm

TheoO wrote:
Wed Jul 22, 2020 5:42 pm
Can we just make some subforum where people can post this stuff? Not that it stops other, including myself, from continually posting about experiences (maybe we just seem to enjoy this as some form of venting?).

One of the common discussions my law school/firm friends and I commiserate over is how dumb we were to choose law over virtually any other field, which almost always seem to be more interesting and all less numbing/insufferable than our careers. In lockdown with my wife, from whom I usually hide my work stuff, she commented on how horribly dull/rote our work is (granted, she does works in reg at a bank, so pot, kettle, black). Still: I see others living their life often from instagram moments during downtime. Kicking myself for not doing engineering or something more interesting, and then feeling like I'm trapped cuz debt.

Summary: Everyone I know whose not a lawyer had to adjust to how little they see me, how irregular my appearances at events is, how often I have to whip out my laptop and find a corner to send some doc/redraft something, how often I have to leave early/arrive late, keep my phone on the table and continually look at it during convos, pick up calls and walk away from the table, come back, write an email (which can take forever when you're seated in a loud table and after maybe a drink), potentially another call. Sit down and then feel tense, and unable to resume conversations because my concentration to others is off. I'm stressed when busy, get stressed when not busy for any prolonged period, find it hard to keep connections with others due to above complaints, often too tired to do weekend things when I don't have work (which is a bummer for my wife, who often spends weekends with friends and not me).
Jesus.

I'm thinking I should just do a year for some cash and bail and do something else at this point.

I haven't started yet, but I totally cosign commiserating about how dumb I was to choose law. I wish my parents had forced me to major in STEM in college. I probably should've dropped out, but I didn't realize how much law sucks until I was a 2L, and at that point I figured I should just finish the degree since I was on a full scholarship and had a job lined up.
Last edited by Anonymous User on Wed Jul 22, 2020 6:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Jul 22, 2020 6:35 pm

Do regulatory groups have it better? I’ve heard that at my DC SA firm the reg people have decent work/life balance and the lit/white collar people are crazy busy always. Maybe it’s just grass is always greener mentality though?

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Jul 22, 2020 6:48 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Jul 22, 2020 8:07 am
Re: partner email at 10 pm... what if you’re asleep? Do y’all set certain alert tones for partners so that if something is truly important, you’ll wake up to read it?
Some associates in my group have developed an unspoken rule, together, that after 10pm, unless we have work we expect, we are "asleep" and make every effort to be silent/invisible (assuming we aren't in office). It works pretty well. Though some partners have picked up on this and as a result expect a response earlier in the morning. Power in numbers for this though: we came together and made this decision together.

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Jul 22, 2020 7:33 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Jul 22, 2020 4:03 pm
I've had a similar, though not quite as positive, experience as a junior in lit. Based on this thread and other anecdotal evidence from friends, I often wonder if certain transactional groups (M&A, cap markets) are the most difficult areas to work in on the whole.
Lit can very greatly by subgroup, and of course partner. I'm a lit senior and have gotten experience in a bunch of different subgroups in my time in biglaw, particularly when I was more junior (massive class actions, soft IP, general commercial, securities, etc.). Big class actions are great: competent opposing counsel, long deadlines, lots of document work that is pretty low-effort, lots of research / briefwriting, etc. Plus, it is easy to keep track of your things when you are on one giant case, or at least have one big case to sink the majority of your time into and then maybe one smaller one to fill out the schedule. On the opposite end of the spectrum is what I'm doing now, which is smaller general commercial cases (I am on 9 active matters) with a million moving parts and a lot of demands that everything be done ASAP. It makes keeping track of things nearly impossible and creates a lot of opportunities for 6 cases to blow up at once and completely ruin a night, week, or month. It also leads to a lot of inefficiencies, because you're constantly switching from task to task and thought to thought. On the whole transactional probably has more uncertainty than lit, but it's definitely possible for lit to be just as crazy.

Also, things get worse as you get more senior. Even though you can delegate, you reach a point where almost all the work you do is substantive and you don't have any doc review or other projects that are easy to decompress for a bit.

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by Sackboy » Wed Jul 22, 2020 8:37 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Jul 22, 2020 6:33 pm
TheoO wrote:
Wed Jul 22, 2020 5:42 pm
Can we just make some subforum where people can post this stuff? Not that it stops other, including myself, from continually posting about experiences (maybe we just seem to enjoy this as some form of venting?).

One of the common discussions my law school/firm friends and I commiserate over is how dumb we were to choose law over virtually any other field, which almost always seem to be more interesting and all less numbing/insufferable than our careers. In lockdown with my wife, from whom I usually hide my work stuff, she commented on how horribly dull/rote our work is (granted, she does works in reg at a bank, so pot, kettle, black). Still: I see others living their life often from instagram moments during downtime. Kicking myself for not doing engineering or something more interesting, and then feeling like I'm trapped cuz debt.

Summary: Everyone I know whose not a lawyer had to adjust to how little they see me, how irregular my appearances at events is, how often I have to whip out my laptop and find a corner to send some doc/redraft something, how often I have to leave early/arrive late, keep my phone on the table and continually look at it during convos, pick up calls and walk away from the table, come back, write an email (which can take forever when you're seated in a loud table and after maybe a drink), potentially another call. Sit down and then feel tense, and unable to resume conversations because my concentration to others is off. I'm stressed when busy, get stressed when not busy for any prolonged period, find it hard to keep connections with others due to above complaints, often too tired to do weekend things when I don't have work (which is a bummer for my wife, who often spends weekends with friends and not me).
Jesus.

I'm thinking I should just do a year for some cash and bail and do something else at this point.

I haven't started yet, but I totally cosign commiserating about how dumb I was to choose law. I wish my parents had forced me to major in STEM in college. I probably should've dropped out, but I didn't realize how much law sucks until I was a 2L, and at that point I figured I should just finish the degree since I was on a full scholarship and had a job lined up.
Both of these takes are bad. Law doesn't have to suck. There are a lot of ways to practice in this profession that are engaging and fun: state/federal gov't, midlaw/small law, solo, public interest, academia. It always baffles me when people try biglaw and go "this profession sucks." Biglaw is literally an entry-level job in the legal profession. Go find me a professional that isn't grinding away and doesn't have a incredibly demanding first decade of their career to advance. You won't find one. Biglaw is really about gaining experience and credentials to leverage your ability to really pursue the incredibly fulfilling jobs in the legal field.

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by EzraFitz » Wed Jul 22, 2020 10:11 pm

Sackboy wrote:
Wed Jul 22, 2020 8:37 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Jul 22, 2020 6:33 pm
TheoO wrote:
Wed Jul 22, 2020 5:42 pm
Can we just make some subforum where people can post this stuff? Not that it stops other, including myself, from continually posting about experiences (maybe we just seem to enjoy this as some form of venting?).

One of the common discussions my law school/firm friends and I commiserate over is how dumb we were to choose law over virtually any other field, which almost always seem to be more interesting and all less numbing/insufferable than our careers. In lockdown with my wife, from whom I usually hide my work stuff, she commented on how horribly dull/rote our work is (granted, she does works in reg at a bank, so pot, kettle, black). Still: I see others living their life often from instagram moments during downtime. Kicking myself for not doing engineering or something more interesting, and then feeling like I'm trapped cuz debt.

Summary: Everyone I know whose not a lawyer had to adjust to how little they see me, how irregular my appearances at events is, how often I have to whip out my laptop and find a corner to send some doc/redraft something, how often I have to leave early/arrive late, keep my phone on the table and continually look at it during convos, pick up calls and walk away from the table, come back, write an email (which can take forever when you're seated in a loud table and after maybe a drink), potentially another call. Sit down and then feel tense, and unable to resume conversations because my concentration to others is off. I'm stressed when busy, get stressed when not busy for any prolonged period, find it hard to keep connections with others due to above complaints, often too tired to do weekend things when I don't have work (which is a bummer for my wife, who often spends weekends with friends and not me).
Jesus.

I'm thinking I should just do a year for some cash and bail and do something else at this point.

I haven't started yet, but I totally cosign commiserating about how dumb I was to choose law. I wish my parents had forced me to major in STEM in college. I probably should've dropped out, but I didn't realize how much law sucks until I was a 2L, and at that point I figured I should just finish the degree since I was on a full scholarship and had a job lined up.
Both of these takes are bad. Law doesn't have to suck. There are a lot of ways to practice in this profession that are engaging and fun: state/federal gov't, midlaw/small law, solo, public interest, academia. It always baffles me when people try biglaw and go "this profession sucks." Biglaw is literally an entry-level job in the legal profession. Go find me a professional that isn't grinding away and doesn't have a incredibly demanding first decade of their career to advance. You won't find one. Biglaw is really about gaining experience and credentials to leverage your ability to really pursue the incredibly fulfilling jobs in the legal field.
I'm with Sackboy here. As someone who was a STEM major in college, and chose to go to law school when I realized how ridiculously dull and life sucking a career in my undergrad path would be, I can 100% say I made the right decision. Have I also at times been incredibly frustrated with how Big Law can be, the incredible mental stress, etc.? Certainly. Would I go back and slap myself into staying on my STEM path? Hell no. Every path has forks that suck. But just because the first one you take isn't what you want to do forever doesn't mean you took the wrong path.

Seriously? What are you waiting for?

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