How bad is Big Law life?

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PMan99

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by PMan99 » Wed Jul 22, 2020 10:58 pm

Sackboy wrote:
Wed Jul 22, 2020 8:37 pm
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.
The bolded is an overstatement. Most people who do consulting or finance straight out of undergrad are out of their super grinding positions before their law-focused classmates even graduated law school. Not even being hyperbolic here; the analyst lifespan in both professions is two years. Some small number will get directly promoted (in finance there is only like a 10% promotion rate), and some smaller number will go to equally demanding positions (e.g. PE/HF), but the largest number will either go to business school (a joke) or into industry where the pressures are far less.

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Sackboy

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by Sackboy » Wed Jul 22, 2020 11:21 pm

PMan99 wrote:
Wed Jul 22, 2020 10:58 pm

The bolded is an overstatement. Most people who do consulting or finance straight out of undergrad are out of their super grinding positions before their law-focused classmates even graduated law school. Not even being hyperbolic here; the analyst lifespan in both professions is two years. Some small number will get directly promoted (in finance there is only like a 10% promotion rate), and some smaller number will go to equally demanding positions (e.g. PE/HF), but the largest number will either go to business school (a joke) or into industry where the pressures are far less.
Ahh, yes, the popular TLS myth that consultants/bankers live the dream life, because they just grind for 2yrs, go get an MBA, and then ascend into heaven. The idea that the grind for these folks once they receive their MBA at 26 is... humorous. Also, the idea that law school also isn't a joke is also... humorous.

The grass is always greener, but lawyers really don't have it terribly bad. There are a lot of options in this profession to make decent money, have a fulfilling career, and do interesting work.

TheoO

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by TheoO » 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.

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by Spartan_Alum_12 » Thu Jul 23, 2020 1:41 am

Sackboy wrote:
Wed Jul 22, 2020 11:21 pm
PMan99 wrote:
Wed Jul 22, 2020 10:58 pm

The bolded is an overstatement. Most people who do consulting or finance straight out of undergrad are out of their super grinding positions before their law-focused classmates even graduated law school. Not even being hyperbolic here; the analyst lifespan in both professions is two years. Some small number will get directly promoted (in finance there is only like a 10% promotion rate), and some smaller number will go to equally demanding positions (e.g. PE/HF), but the largest number will either go to business school (a joke) or into industry where the pressures are far less.
Ahh, yes, the popular TLS myth that consultants/bankers live the dream life, because they just grind for 2yrs, go get an MBA, and then ascend into heaven. The idea that the grind for these folks once they receive their MBA at 26 is... humorous. Also, the idea that law school also isn't a joke is also... humorous.

The grass is always greener, but lawyers really don't have it terribly bad. There are a lot of options in this profession to make decent money, have a fulfilling career, and do interesting work.
You see it on here with STEM as well. I was an engineering undergrad (in patent law now) and the schooling was very difficult (longer and harder than law school IMO) and I generally think most engineers are underpaid (and often see an early salary plateau). Some also don't have the best work environments or live in great areas. There is no easy road. I'm glad I went into patent law after undergrad rather than into an engineering career (so far).

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Sackboy

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by Sackboy » Thu Jul 23, 2020 4:16 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.
This isn't a problem with the law. This is a problem with you practicing some subset of corporate law that you don't seem to want to practice.

A lot of the problem with the entire IB/Consulting/Biglaw conversation is that many (not all) of these people chose their careers based on $$$ and not meaning, and then they're surprised that their careers contain little to no meaning to them. They look over at whichever one of the three that they didn't go into and wring their hands about how their life would have been so much better.

You're about as right as consulting having better options than law as veterinarian school having better exit options than law school. It's a very true statement if you want to be a vet/work in business development. It's a really silly statement if you want to practice the law. If the first thing you go to is "well, money," then perhaps you should revisit the paragraph right before this.

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objctnyrhnr

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by objctnyrhnr » Thu Jul 23, 2020 7:26 am

Sackboy wrote:
Thu Jul 23, 2020 4:16 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.
This isn't a problem with the law. This is a problem with you practicing some subset of corporate law that you don't seem to want to practice.

A lot of the problem with the entire IB/Consulting/Biglaw conversation is that many (not all) of these people chose their careers based on $$$ and not meaning, and then they're surprised that their careers contain little to no meaning to them. They look over at whichever one of the three that they didn't go into and wring their hands about how their life would have been so much better.

You're about as right as consulting having better options than law as veterinarian school having better exit options than law school. It's a very true statement if you want to be a vet/work in business development. It's a really silly statement if you want to practice the law. If the first thing you go to is "well, money," then perhaps you should revisit the paragraph right before this.
This. This is why you find most of the complaints Re biglaw from mids and seniors about biglaw coming from the transactional end, M&A in particular. (Lot of lit complaints from juniors at large shops as well because they don’t get to do that much enjoyably stuff yet.)

What’s that expression? “If you love what you do you’ll never need to work a day in your life”? Now that’s still a candy cane idea but it’s more accurately summarized as “if you like what you do enough, then things won’t ever feel THAT bad.”

In my opinion, people who go to law school cause they feel otherwise lost and/or they want the money largely end up in M&A (or other corporate/transactional stuff) and those people often find M&A unfulfilling and then that’s where the “biglaw is terrible” posts come from. Because when you don’t really like pie that much, and the result of hard work is more pie to the point that you find yourself drowning in pie, you’re gonna have a bad time. Especially when you chose to get into the pie eating contest only for money to begin with, without even thinking about the taste of pie itself.

“If you aren’t going to like being a lawyer, don’t become a lawyer” is easy to say and obviously hard to put into practice ahead of time. But that doesn’t make it less accurate.

You see so many posts here, Reddit, etc. about how there’s some prestigious position x and associated path is somehow objectively better than some prestigious position y and associated path. When it comes to it, this type of thing (consulting vs Ibanking vs STEM vs med school vs biglaw transactional vs biglaw lit) can’t be objectively put on some sort of scale. All smart people are super different in the way they think, what they intellectually enjoy, strengths, weaknesses, appetite for risk, etc.

If I were giving an advice-type talk at a high school or college I’d just try my hardest to implore people to figure out the way they like thinking as soon as possible, then research the hell out of the primary “paths” and what’s entailed on a day to day basis in each one and then figure it out from there. In other words, DO NOT pick one because you think it’ll be easier and/or get you more money than the others. That’s simply the wrong metric to use when deciding how you’ll spend your lifetime waking hours.

soft blue

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by soft blue » Thu Jul 23, 2020 8:05 am

I would say that four variables that I've seen that most determine someone's happiness with BigLaw, regardless of level:
  • Do they find what they do at least marginally interesting? (i.e. would they, like, willingly read an article or two about it a day or mind if it came up in their head in the shower?)
  • Can they enjoy the teamwork / competition aspect of things? (I know many M&A people who could not give less of a shit about the deals they do but love the idea of competing vs. others to get the best terms, etc and like the idea of being in the trenches with people they enjoy.)
  • Are they on a small number of matters that take up the majority of their time or are they on 7-8+ that are constantly pulling them in different directions? (That said, the happiest person I know in BigLaw is a tax lawyer who's always on a bunch of deals, maybe she's the exception that proves the rule, etc)
  • Do they not hate their relevant supervisor (mid/senior/partner/client)?

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by nixy » Thu Jul 23, 2020 8:16 am

I agree with most of what objnyrhr said above - at one point in the law school scam discussions I used to see a lot of people say, “forget law, go into nursing, it’s always in demand!” And that never made any sense to me because even more than law, nursing is a field where you need some kind of vocation, and if you don’t like it, you’re going to HATE it. It’s not a job you should do just because it has reliable hours and you can get hired anywhere in the country.

I do wish as a culture we were better at informing people about the huge range of jobs that exist, instead of everyone somehow intuiting that the only “good” options (for non-science geniuses) are doctor, law, banking, consultant and refusing to look at other stuff.

All that said - I think there are a lot of objective reasons why biglaw M&A/transactional/corporate jobs are more miserable than a lot of other jobs, and liking the work may not be enough to save you. I agree though that a lot of people have a hard time believing those things will outweigh the benefits of the money until they experience them.

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by spyke123 » Thu Jul 23, 2020 9:23 am

I am with nixy here. Agree that a lot of folks doing corporate work at biglaw probably ended up there because they were chasing $$$/prestige w/o thinking about what they really enjoy and want to do, but I don't think its fair to say these same people who complain about corporate work at biglaw would have been as miserable if they ended up going the banking/consulting route. Corporate work at biglaw can be objectively worse.

The issue with the current legal field in the US is that it takes (relative to other similar professions, i.e. banking/consulting) an absurd amount of time/$$$ to get a taste of what "practicing law" feels like - 3 years of school, $200K in student loans and another 3-4 years at biglaw. By the time you are a mid level at biglaw and realize you dont really want to be a lawyer, you are already 7-8 years into the path and it may be too late to start over and go down another path, while your friends who did banking/consulting are ahead and more settled in terms of career progression. I think it is a bit silly to say to these people "well you should've thought about what you wanted to do with your life while in UG". No matter how much thinking/researching/talking you do, you won't know what "practicing law" at biglaw feels like until you do it. And I lol at the idea of some 20 year old who claims to have a passion for practicing transactional law.

The solution to all this is probably to go away from the law school model and just do what some other countries do - option to go into legal practice straight from UG for a 2 year "training period". I am sure this approach has its flaws but at least people will get a taste of what practicing law feels like early and decide if they want to continue before going too far down the path.

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by objctnyrhnr » Thu Jul 23, 2020 9:29 am

spyke123 wrote:
Thu Jul 23, 2020 9:23 am
I am with nixy here. Agree that a lot of folks doing corporate work at biglaw probably ended up there because they were chasing $$$/prestige w/o thinking about what they really enjoy and want to do, but I don't think its fair to say these same people who complain about corporate work at biglaw would have been as miserable if they ended up going the banking/consulting route. Corporate work at biglaw can be objectively worse.

The issue with the current legal field in the US is that it takes (relative to other similar professions, i.e. banking/consulting) an absurd amount of time/$$$ to get a taste of what "practicing law" feels like - 3 years of school, $200K in student loans and another 3-4 years at biglaw. By the time you are a mid level at biglaw and realize you dont really want to be a lawyer, you are already 7-8 years into the path and it may be too late to start over and go down another path, while your friends who did banking/consulting are ahead and more settled in terms of career progression. I think it is a bit silly to say to these people "well you should've thought about what you wanted to do with your life while in UG". No matter how much thinking/researching/talking you do, you won't know what "practicing law" at biglaw feels like until you do it. And I lol at the idea of some 20 year old who claims to have a passion for practicing transactional law.

The solution to all this is probably to go away from the law school model and just do what some other countries do - option to go into legal practice straight from UG for a 2 year "training period". I am sure this approach has its flaws but at least people will get a taste of what practicing law feels like early and decide if they want to continue before going too far down the path.
Yeah, this is a good take. This was my general point.

The credited response, as a concept, is that you should really see what it’s like (and not just as an entry level, but at all levels) before you get into it, particularly when it takes a ton of time and money to get into.

But as you said it’s very very difficult to really see what law is like in this way before committing a bunch of time to it, based on the situation we have set up in this country.

So yeah: not saying that there’s an easy practical answer here.

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EzraFitz

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by EzraFitz » Thu Jul 23, 2020 10:22 am

objctnyrhnr wrote:
Thu Jul 23, 2020 9:29 am
spyke123 wrote:
Thu Jul 23, 2020 9:23 am
I am with nixy here. Agree that a lot of folks doing corporate work at biglaw probably ended up there because they were chasing $$$/prestige w/o thinking about what they really enjoy and want to do, but I don't think its fair to say these same people who complain about corporate work at biglaw would have been as miserable if they ended up going the banking/consulting route. Corporate work at biglaw can be objectively worse.

The issue with the current legal field in the US is that it takes (relative to other similar professions, i.e. banking/consulting) an absurd amount of time/$$$ to get a taste of what "practicing law" feels like - 3 years of school, $200K in student loans and another 3-4 years at biglaw. By the time you are a mid level at biglaw and realize you dont really want to be a lawyer, you are already 7-8 years into the path and it may be too late to start over and go down another path, while your friends who did banking/consulting are ahead and more settled in terms of career progression. I think it is a bit silly to say to these people "well you should've thought about what you wanted to do with your life while in UG". No matter how much thinking/researching/talking you do, you won't know what "practicing law" at biglaw feels like until you do it. And I lol at the idea of some 20 year old who claims to have a passion for practicing transactional law.

The solution to all this is probably to go away from the law school model and just do what some other countries do - option to go into legal practice straight from UG for a 2 year "training period". I am sure this approach has its flaws but at least people will get a taste of what practicing law feels like early and decide if they want to continue before going too far down the path.
Yeah, this is a good take. This was my general point.

The credited response, as a concept, is that you should really see what it’s like (and not just as an entry level, but at all levels) before you get into it, particularly when it takes a ton of time and money to get into.

But as you said it’s very very difficult to really see what law is like in this way before committing a bunch of time to it, based on the situation we have set up in this country.

So yeah: not saying that there’s an easy practical answer here.
I definitely agree, both with having some degree of enjoyment being vital, but about there not being a good solution in regards to figuring out if you ACTUALLY have that enjoyment short of a years long time sink. But there are definitely people out there who really enjoy the work (e.g. myself). It really makes a world of difference in how the grind feels.

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by TheoO » Thu Jul 23, 2020 11:27 am

Sackboy wrote:
Thu Jul 23, 2020 4:16 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.
This isn't a problem with the law. This is a problem with you practicing some subset of corporate law that you don't seem to want to practice.

A lot of the problem with the entire IB/Consulting/Biglaw conversation is that many (not all) of these people chose their careers based on $$$ and not meaning, and then they're surprised that their careers contain little to no meaning to them. They look over at whichever one of the three that they didn't go into and wring their hands about how their life would have been so much better.

You're about as right as consulting having better options than law as veterinarian school having better exit options than law school. It's a very true statement if you want to be a vet/work in business development. It's a really silly statement if you want to practice the law. If the first thing you go to is "well, money," then perhaps you should revisit the paragraph right before this.
Sorry to all that this has strayed so much (in a pretty cliche way).

I can agree on most points to this and I tell people all the time that for many people law school is the "easy choice" in lieu of doing the hard thing and really thinking about what you want to do. Add to that a lack of knowledge of what most practices often entails on a day to day and week to week basis compared to the conceptual idea of "law" (and also the way off pay to experience "ratio"). I'm not saying I would have gone to consulting/IB in the alternative. To be honest, since I didnt choose law just for money and likely couldnt compete with people on that side (I don't I have the financial aptitude and education). I don't know that many of my IB/consulting friends look on law as "the greener field". Most who went into the business side of things always knowing they wanted to be there (and got an education that fit that role). Whether or not they find meaning in it is something else, and there's plenty of horror stories in these industries and people exiting to find something more purposeful there as well.
“If you aren’t going to like being a lawyer, don’t become a lawyer” is easy to say and obviously hard to put into practice ahead of time. But that doesn’t make it less accurate.
This goes to Sackboy's point above. I guess a lot of the problems with this industry is in this statement: there isn't just one "law" practice, but many, and what you end up practicing at a big firm (often with not much choice on your end) can mean wildly divergent things. And people in law school/starting biglaw practice often don't have much of an awareness of this. People in lit have little conception of what I do and I don't know much about what people in IP are doing, or tax, employment. These practices are so divergent that they often feel like entirely separate things, and its difficult to know from the beginning which of these is a fit for you (and whether you'll even end up there anyway).

I guess at the end of the day, there's just a lot of unknowns in this industry. I'm not sure if its that way in other ones, since this is the only career I've ever had. I'm sure there's plenty of industries where, based on how things have turned, people are doing tasks/jobs that are wildly different from what they thought they would/wanted to do. But it seems especially rife in our world where we have this one concept.

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Jul 23, 2020 11:47 am

objctnyrhnr wrote:
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.)
I'm generally in this place. Sixth year making market in a major market with moderately high COL, but stashing away significant cash each year. I have great reviews, and if I wanted to make the push for partner I probably could, but I'm not interested in that, so I'm surviving on less than 2200 hours per year. I figure I have a little less than two years before I get pushed out, and I can probably save an additional $400k in that time.

I don't have a specific financial goal, other than perhaps buying a home with cash. Rather, my timeframe is driven by the reality that I just won't make partner two years from now, and that will probably be the end of the line (there's a chance I could get deferred for a year, but I would probably have to pretend like I was trying, and I don't have the fortitude for that).

I don't have a specific plan for what to do next, but I'll hopefully have ~$700k in non-retirement assets, which should give me a lot of flexibility. I might even leave the law; I don't know. My plan might be stupid, but it's basically this: I don't expect to ever make this much money again (or anywhere close), it's a unique opportunity that I've "earned" by surviving this long, and although this job sucks, if I can grit my teeth for a bit longer, I can materially change my financial trajectory for the rest of my life.

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nealric

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by nealric » Thu Jul 23, 2020 12:03 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Jul 23, 2020 11:47 am
objctnyrhnr wrote:
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.)
I'm generally in this place. Sixth year making market in a major market with moderately high COL, but stashing away significant cash each year. I have great reviews, and if I wanted to make the push for partner I probably could, but I'm not interested in that, so I'm surviving on less than 2200 hours per year. I figure I have a little less than two years before I get pushed out, and I can probably save an additional $400k in that time.
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.

The Lsat Airbender

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by The Lsat Airbender » 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.)

hdr

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by hdr » Thu Jul 23, 2020 1:00 pm

In my experience (non-NY) associates can often get away with billing ~1600 hours for several years, but it depends on the firm. At my prior firm I billed between 1750-1800 plus 200 pro bono and got market bonuses four straight years, as a midlevel/senior.

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by sparty99 » Thu Jul 23, 2020 1:39 pm

Jesus. There are a lots of Eeyore, "whoa is me" people in this thread.

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AllyMcBail

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by AllyMcBail » Thu Jul 23, 2020 3:01 pm

Sackboy wrote:
Tue Jul 21, 2020 4:01 am
Biglaw isn't generally horrible because you're getting waterboarded 24/7 with work like the hypothetical 72hr/wk 50wks/yr associate, though that is horrible. Biglaw is generally horrible because its demands are so unpredictable and intense that there is a constant sense of "any minute now" in terms of your phone ringing or an email popping into your inbox and ruining your night/weekend/week.

. . .

It's not about the work (though that can be bad too). It's about how it generally warps your life in a way that is just exhausting for many.
This

eastcoast_iub

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by eastcoast_iub » 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.

AllyMcBail

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by AllyMcBail » Thu Jul 23, 2020 3:27 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
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.
I agree that you should leave. I was in a roughly similar spot to you, and I am very happy about making the decision to leave. You aren't burdened by debt, and you have a spouse with income, so there is nothing keeping you in biglaw. Enjoy life on the other side!

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Vexed

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by Vexed » Thu Jul 23, 2020 3:32 pm

PMan99 wrote:
Wed Jul 22, 2020 12:24 am
Older partners who have made a career out of it aren't really good guides because they generally came up 20+ years ago when things were significantly easier for a number of reasons (lower hours, less technology, higher promotion rate, etc.) and they have enough equity to coast significantly more as long as they bring in business to feed others.
+1 to this, I work for a pretty chill partner but it's kind of hilarious to hear them talk about how many hours they had to bill to make partner while also having a ton of anecdotes about billing tons of hours waiting by the printer, traveling for pointless remote diligence, etc.

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by person237 » Thu Jul 23, 2020 3:53 pm

Vexed wrote:
Thu Jul 23, 2020 3:32 pm
PMan99 wrote:
Wed Jul 22, 2020 12:24 am
Older partners who have made a career out of it aren't really good guides because they generally came up 20+ years ago when things were significantly easier for a number of reasons (lower hours, less technology, higher promotion rate, etc.) and they have enough equity to coast significantly more as long as they bring in business to feed others.
+1 to this, I work for a pretty chill partner but it's kind of hilarious to hear them talk about how many hours they had to bill to make partner while also having a ton of anecdotes about billing tons of hours waiting by the printer, traveling for pointless remote diligence, etc.
Waiting by the printer???? Love that for them hate that for me.

The Lsat Airbender

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by The Lsat Airbender » Thu Jul 23, 2020 5:14 pm

person237 wrote:
Thu Jul 23, 2020 3:53 pm
Vexed wrote:
Thu Jul 23, 2020 3:32 pm
PMan99 wrote:
Wed Jul 22, 2020 12:24 am
Older partners who have made a career out of it aren't really good guides because they generally came up 20+ years ago when things were significantly easier for a number of reasons (lower hours, less technology, higher promotion rate, etc.) and they have enough equity to coast significantly more as long as they bring in business to feed others.
+1 to this, I work for a pretty chill partner but it's kind of hilarious to hear them talk about how many hours they had to bill to make partner while also having a ton of anecdotes about billing tons of hours waiting by the printer, traveling for pointless remote diligence, etc.
Waiting by the printer???? Love that for them hate that for me.
before email/EDGAR got good in the 2000's you had to literally hang out at the financial printer for hours and hours to get the registration statement done

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unlicensedpotato

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by unlicensedpotato » Thu Jul 23, 2020 5:33 pm

The Lsat Airbender wrote:
Thu Jul 23, 2020 5:14 pm
person237 wrote:
Thu Jul 23, 2020 3:53 pm
Vexed wrote:
Thu Jul 23, 2020 3:32 pm
PMan99 wrote:
Wed Jul 22, 2020 12:24 am
Older partners who have made a career out of it aren't really good guides because they generally came up 20+ years ago when things were significantly easier for a number of reasons (lower hours, less technology, higher promotion rate, etc.) and they have enough equity to coast significantly more as long as they bring in business to feed others.
+1 to this, I work for a pretty chill partner but it's kind of hilarious to hear them talk about how many hours they had to bill to make partner while also having a ton of anecdotes about billing tons of hours waiting by the printer, traveling for pointless remote diligence, etc.
Waiting by the printer???? Love that for them hate that for me.
before email/EDGAR got good in the 2000's you had to literally hang out at the financial printer for hours and hours to get the registration statement done
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.

TheoO

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Re: How bad is Big Law life?

Post by TheoO » 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.

Seriously? What are you waiting for?

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