Tips to survive a long time in Biglaw? Forum

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Tips to survive a long time in Biglaw?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu May 26, 2022 11:40 pm

How does one make it a long time in Biglaw?

Looking for any tips to keep the gravy train rolling. No desire for partnership. Focus is on milking the Biglaw cow and quietly stacking cash. Love the salary but want to mitigate as much of the downside as possible.

Thanks TLS!

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Re: Tips to survive a long time in Biglaw?

Post by The Lsat Airbender » Fri May 27, 2022 12:19 am

What are you trying to optimize for? Not getting fired? Not burning out? What's your risk tolerance for falling? The ideal strategy will vary from person to person (as well as by firm, practice area, economic climate...).

I assume you didn't ask any specific questions because they've already been discussed to death in previous threads.

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Re: Tips to survive a long time in Biglaw?

Post by Anonymous User » Fri May 27, 2022 12:56 am

always get your sleep unless a deal is literally closing that day

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Re: Tips to survive a long time in Biglaw?

Post by Sackboy » Fri May 27, 2022 4:39 am

Aggressively bill 1900-2000 hours. You won't get fired. You'll be bringing in $1.2M+ as a first year in the V10 and probably $800k-$1.2M elsewhere. You'll get your bonus. No additional hour is worth it. Turn work down. Shirk work. Do whatever you need to.The reality is that you significantly increase your chance of survival if you aren't consistently billing 2,000+. The firm will be happy making $1M-$2M off you as you get more senior, and you'll have a life. No need to generate another $250K for the firm so they can give you another $10k in mArkEt ShAtTerRiNg bonuses.

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Re: Tips to survive a long time in Biglaw?

Post by Anonymous User » Fri May 27, 2022 6:01 am

Never, ever volunteer for work. I keep on seeing juniors e-mailing the office begging for work and I never understand why. It's probably their fear of not doing a good job and being let go if they're not busy enough. Before they know it, they're hit with a sledgehammer and are just like everyone else, complaining about the hours. Well, you literally asked for it. To that end, also never indicate you have time, to anyone. This is another big mistake people make and is also why I will never find one of my colleagues indicate they are having an easier time. Seriously, all my colleagues must be billing 3,000 hours each year, because they're always, by their own admission, busy. Obviously they are not, but they know the price they have to pay if they say something else.

Also, push back on every new matter. Sometimes it's easier said than done, but when you get asked for your availability, really emphasize everything that is happening. Don't go "Well, this and this deadline is coming up, but I'm actually taking a backseat on this transaction, so..." No. Just say the deadlines, and if helpful, the workstreams you are leading (even if you've delegated those down/they're basically done). Every new matter will always be advertised as short and sweet, but will inevitably blow up in your face. Same goes for matters you're asked to work on for just a week or two. They often turn into permanent affairs, even if you had said "Well I can spare 10 hours for the next two weeks, but after that I'm really busy because of X and X." No, you'll be put on it and it will turn into 30 hours a week for the next two months. Don't let them trap you.

Same goes for assignments on matters you're on. If it's an easy assignment, just take and do it and sit on it until the very last moment. If it's a rough one, try and push back that you're already really busy. IF you have to do it anyway, send it out as late as possible. Partners notice when you send stuff out, and if you send it out after midnight, they'll think you were working really hard all night long - not that you were done at 5pm and then went on a date for the rest of the night.

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Re: Tips to survive a long time in Biglaw?

Post by Anonymous User » Fri May 27, 2022 8:11 am

The Lsat Airbender wrote:
Fri May 27, 2022 12:19 am
What are you trying to optimize for? Not getting fired? Not burning out? What's your risk tolerance for falling? The ideal strategy will vary from person to person (as well as by firm, practice area, economic climate...).

I assume you didn't ask any specific questions because they've already been discussed to death in previous threads.
Go away.

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Re: Tips to survive a long time in Biglaw?

Post by Anonymous User » Fri May 27, 2022 8:12 am

Sackboy wrote:
Fri May 27, 2022 4:39 am
Aggressively bill 1900-2000 hours. You won't get fired. You'll be bringing in $1.2M+ as a first year in the V10 and probably $800k-$1.2M elsewhere. You'll get your bonus. No additional hour is worth it. Turn work down. Shirk work. Do whatever you need to.The reality is that you significantly increase your chance of survival if you aren't consistently billing 2,000+. The firm will be happy making $1M-$2M off you as you get more senior, and you'll have a life. No need to generate another $250K for the firm so they can give you another $10k in mArkEt ShAtTerRiNg bonuses.
Helpful stuff thank you

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Re: Tips to survive a long time in Biglaw?

Post by Anonymous User » Fri May 27, 2022 8:15 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Fri May 27, 2022 6:01 am
Never, ever volunteer for work. I keep on seeing juniors e-mailing the office begging for work and I never understand why. It's probably their fear of not doing a good job and being let go if they're not busy enough. Before they know it, they're hit with a sledgehammer and are just like everyone else, complaining about the hours. Well, you literally asked for it. To that end, also never indicate you have time, to anyone. This is another big mistake people make and is also why I will never find one of my colleagues indicate they are having an easier time. Seriously, all my colleagues must be billing 3,000 hours each year, because they're always, by their own admission, busy. Obviously they are not, but they know the price they have to pay if they say something else.

Also, push back on every new matter. Sometimes it's easier said than done, but when you get asked for your availability, really emphasize everything that is happening. Don't go "Well, this and this deadline is coming up, but I'm actually taking a backseat on this transaction, so..." No. Just say the deadlines, and if helpful, the workstreams you are leading (even if you've delegated those down/they're basically done). Every new matter will always be advertised as short and sweet, but will inevitably blow up in your face. Same goes for matters you're asked to work on for just a week or two. They often turn into permanent affairs, even if you had said "Well I can spare 10 hours for the next two weeks, but after that I'm really busy because of X and X." No, you'll be put on it and it will turn into 30 hours a week for the next two months. Don't let them trap you.

Same goes for assignments on matters you're on. If it's an easy assignment, just take and do it and sit on it until the very last moment. If it's a rough one, try and push back that you're already really busy. IF you have to do it anyway, send it out as late as possible. Partners notice when you send stuff out, and if you send it out after midnight, they'll think you were working really hard all night long - not that you were done at 5pm and then went on a date for the rest of the night.
Thanks. I think half of my firm wakes up at 2-3 am just to go active so it looks like they’ve been burning the midnight oil

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Re: Tips to survive a long time in Biglaw?

Post by Anonymous User » Fri May 27, 2022 8:26 am

Do partners not like it if they think associates are “only” working from 9 to 7 or something like that? Are optics of when you get the 8-9 hours of billable work in that important?

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Re: Tips to survive a long time in Biglaw?

Post by Anonymous User » Fri May 27, 2022 8:40 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Fri May 27, 2022 8:26 am
Do partners not like it if they think associates are “only” working from 9 to 7 or something like that? Are optics of when you get the 8-9 hours of billable work in that important?
It's more that sending drafts/responding to emails very late usually correlates to being extremely busy and partners typically aren't going to double check that.

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Re: Tips to survive a long time in Biglaw?

Post by existentialcrisis » Fri May 27, 2022 8:41 am

Accidental Anon ^ that was me.

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Re: Tips to survive a long time in Biglaw?

Post by Anonymous User » Fri May 27, 2022 9:46 am

On the topic of never ask for work, does that apply even if you're low on hours? I'm a junior currently on target for about 1750. I'm told I do good work and at times I'm pretty busy. But a partner I did a lot of work for just left and overall it seems like there's less work to go around recently. Should I still not ask for work? At my current pace I won't make bonus.

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Re: Tips to survive a long time in Biglaw?

Post by Lacepiece23 » Fri May 27, 2022 10:58 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Fri May 27, 2022 8:15 am
Anonymous User wrote:
Fri May 27, 2022 6:01 am
Never, ever volunteer for work. I keep on seeing juniors e-mailing the office begging for work and I never understand why. It's probably their fear of not doing a good job and being let go if they're not busy enough. Before they know it, they're hit with a sledgehammer and are just like everyone else, complaining about the hours. Well, you literally asked for it. To that end, also never indicate you have time, to anyone. This is another big mistake people make and is also why I will never find one of my colleagues indicate they are having an easier time. Seriously, all my colleagues must be billing 3,000 hours each year, because they're always, by their own admission, busy. Obviously they are not, but they know the price they have to pay if they say something else.

Also, push back on every new matter. Sometimes it's easier said than done, but when you get asked for your availability, really emphasize everything that is happening. Don't go "Well, this and this deadline is coming up, but I'm actually taking a backseat on this transaction, so..." No. Just say the deadlines, and if helpful, the workstreams you are leading (even if you've delegated those down/they're basically done). Every new matter will always be advertised as short and sweet, but will inevitably blow up in your face. Same goes for matters you're asked to work on for just a week or two. They often turn into permanent affairs, even if you had said "Well I can spare 10 hours for the next two weeks, but after that I'm really busy because of X and X." No, you'll be put on it and it will turn into 30 hours a week for the next two months. Don't let them trap you.

Same goes for assignments on matters you're on. If it's an easy assignment, just take and do it and sit on it until the very last moment. If it's a rough one, try and push back that you're already really busy. IF you have to do it anyway, send it out as late as possible. Partners notice when you send stuff out, and if you send it out after midnight, they'll think you were working really hard all night long - not that you were done at 5pm and then went on a date for the rest of the night.
Thanks. I think half of my firm wakes up at 2-3 am just to go active so it looks like they’ve been burning the midnight oil
Delayed emails homie.

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Re: Tips to survive a long time in Biglaw?

Post by The Lsat Airbender » Fri May 27, 2022 11:02 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Fri May 27, 2022 9:46 am
On the topic of never ask for work, does that apply even if you're low on hours? I'm a junior currently on target for about 1750. I'm told I do good work and at times I'm pretty busy. But a partner I did a lot of work for just left and overall it seems like there's less work to go around recently. Should I still not ask for work? At my current pace I won't make bonus.
Again I've got to ask - are you trying to optimize for not getting fired or are you trying to optimize for protecting your sanity/work-life balance? If the former, I'd try and hit the bonus target so you're not as vulnerable if recession (or some other unlucky thing) happens. If the latter, 1750 annualized is probably the ideal cruising altitude.

In any case try to enjoy the slow times while they last. It's good to have gas in the tank if/when things get busy again

To put it another way, if there's a green zone for "can't really get fired because you're still profitable, but not working too hard", the bottom of that zone is in the 1600-1700 area and the top of that zone is whatever your bonus threshold is.

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Re: Tips to survive a long time in Biglaw?

Post by Anonymous User » Fri May 27, 2022 11:26 am

I think about biglaw the way I think about investing in the stock market. Time in biglaw beats timing biglaw. What I mean is that lots of juniors start off raring to go, bill 2000+ hours for their first 2-3 years, get burned out and leave. Resist this. Coast. Turn down work. The goal is to last as many years as possible without getting burned out. It’s way better for you, money-wise, to bill 1800 hours for 7 years than to bill 2000 hours for 5 years. Also if you’re not at a firm that guarantees bonus regardless of hours, lateral.

Source: I lasted almost 8 years with this method. Most years ended up 1700-1800 hours. I stacked over $1 million and paid off all my student loans. Extremely happy with the way things turned out.

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Re: Tips to survive a long time in Biglaw?

Post by Anonymous User » Fri May 27, 2022 11:39 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Fri May 27, 2022 11:26 am
I think about biglaw the way I think about investing in the stock market. Time in biglaw beats timing biglaw. What I mean is that lots of juniors start off raring to go, bill 2000+ hours for their first 2-3 years, get burned out and leave. Resist this. Coast. Turn down work. The goal is to last as many years as possible without getting burned out. It’s way better for you, money-wise, to bill 1800 hours for 7 years than to bill 2000 hours for 5 years. Also if you’re not at a firm that guarantees bonus regardless of hours, lateral.

Source: I lasted almost 8 years with this method. Most years ended up 1700-1800 hours. I stacked over $1 million and paid off all my student loans. Extremely happy with the way things turned out.
Great advice

Were you at a firm that was a churn and burn sweatshop?? At my firm, seems that the seniors are getting absolutely killed or at least project that with their ridiculous statuses at all hours and 4 am emails.

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Re: Tips to survive a long time in Biglaw?

Post by Anonymous User » Fri May 27, 2022 12:23 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Fri May 27, 2022 11:26 am
I think about biglaw the way I think about investing in the stock market. Time in biglaw beats timing biglaw. What I mean is that lots of juniors start off raring to go, bill 2000+ hours for their first 2-3 years, get burned out and leave. Resist this. Coast. Turn down work. The goal is to last as many years as possible without getting burned out. It’s way better for you, money-wise, to bill 1800 hours for 7 years than to bill 2000 hours for 5 years. Also if you’re not at a firm that guarantees bonus regardless of hours, lateral.

Source: I lasted almost 8 years with this method. Most years ended up 1700-1800 hours. I stacked over $1 million and paid off all my student loans. Extremely happy with the way things turned out.
What happened at year 8?

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Re: Tips to survive a long time in Biglaw?

Post by glitched » Fri May 27, 2022 12:26 pm

Very good suggestions above - particularly never bill more than 2100. The QOL difference between 2100 and 2400 hundred is a million fold. With that said, you will have to occasionally be willing to sacrifice for that one deal or that one case. And knowing the difference between what's actually important and what's not comes with experience.

I would add two things: (1) be likeable and (2) be as responsive as possible.

For (1), this is easy. Laugh at people's jokes, smile on zoom meetings, be enthusiastic about shit, crack a joke here and there if you know how, ask people to lunch/coffee, etc. It's just basic psychology. If someone you like messes up, it's easy to forgive it. If someone you don't like makes the exact same mistake, your brain makes justifications why it's a bigger deal. It's unfortunate and unfair, but it's true.

For (2), I don't mean drop everything all the time and work as quickly as possible. I mean just send a "will do" or something as soon as possible, and then deal with it later. The assignor just needs to know that you read/saw the email and will take care of it. In most situations, the assignor doesn't even care that you start it right away (per the above, you'll have to use your judgment to know which situations are actually fire drills) - they're just catching up on emails for when it works for them. For example, a partner sends an email on Sat asking for something. Reply back "will do" asap and then start working on it Monday morning. If you aren't sure if that's okay, just put in the email "For timing, does early next week work?" [or whatever timing works for YOU]. For 99% of the assignments, it'll be fine. If not, the partner will let you know. If the partner keeps making you work over the weekend, try your best to stop working for him/her (e.g., don't take any more assignments).

Edit: I'm going to add one more thing. You have to not care. Don't sweat things. If you make a mistake or a partner chases you for an assignment, you gotta be able to brush it off. You have to be able to accept imperfection and that seeking greatness sometimes gets in the way of achieving good, which is typically enough. And you have to be likeable without the need to be liked/please people. You have to be willing and okay to disappoint a few folks. I think that's why people burn out so much. They care about making the partner happy. A lot of the stress stems from that.
Last edited by glitched on Fri May 27, 2022 12:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Tips to survive a long time in Biglaw?

Post by Anonymous User » Fri May 27, 2022 12:39 pm

Agree with be likable and responsive. I've been likable (aggressively nice) and responsive and have never billed over 1900 in my 3.5 years. I have zero concern about getting fired, and I have a way better life than my peers complaining/bragging about 2500 hours. They probably make $5-$15k more than me a year when bonuses roll around, but it's such a laughable sum of money post tax. I'm not going to give up another 30 literal days (a fucking month) worth of time (probably what it takes when you include non-billables) to make an extra $2,500-$7,500 post-tax. I'm sure the bonus multipliers and what not when you get more senior are more enticing, but it's still not remotely worth it when the multiplier will make up like 3% of your total compensation for the year.

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Re: Tips to survive a long time in Biglaw?

Post by Anonymous User » Fri May 27, 2022 1:34 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Fri May 27, 2022 12:39 pm
Agree with be likable and responsive. I've been likable (aggressively nice) and responsive and have never billed over 1900 in my 3.5 years. I have zero concern about getting fired, and I have a way better life than my peers complaining/bragging about 2500 hours. They probably make $5-$15k more than me a year when bonuses roll around, but it's such a laughable sum of money post tax. I'm not going to give up another 30 literal days (a fucking month) worth of time (probably what it takes when you include non-billables) to make an extra $2,500-$7,500 post-tax. I'm sure the bonus multipliers and what not when you get more senior are more enticing, but it's still not remotely worth it when the multiplier will make up like 3% of your total compensation for the year.
I reviewed the KE thread in Dec/Jan for bonus multipliers and the enticing ones were limited to juniors with mid and seniors pulling very very high hours and getting 1.2/1.3/don’t recall seeing many 1.4+…….. as you said totally unacceptable and not worth it. Not a huge sample size but 15-20 give you a rough idea

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Re: Tips to survive a long time in Biglaw?

Post by Anonymous User » Fri May 27, 2022 2:36 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Fri May 27, 2022 12:23 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Fri May 27, 2022 11:26 am
I think about biglaw the way I think about investing in the stock market. Time in biglaw beats timing biglaw. What I mean is that lots of juniors start off raring to go, bill 2000+ hours for their first 2-3 years, get burned out and leave. Resist this. Coast. Turn down work. The goal is to last as many years as possible without getting burned out. It’s way better for you, money-wise, to bill 1800 hours for 7 years than to bill 2000 hours for 5 years. Also if you’re not at a firm that guarantees bonus regardless of hours, lateral.

Source: I lasted almost 8 years with this method. Most years ended up 1700-1800 hours. I stacked over $1 million and paid off all my student loans. Extremely happy with the way things turned out.
What happened at year 8?
Burnout finally caught up with me. I left for in house…better hours, less stress. The old firm offered me a title and pay bump to stay, but I declined. Gotta step off the treadmill eventually.

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Re: Tips to survive a long time in Biglaw?

Post by Anonymous User » Fri May 27, 2022 2:54 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Fri May 27, 2022 11:26 am
I think about biglaw the way I think about investing in the stock market. Time in biglaw beats timing biglaw. What I mean is that lots of juniors start off raring to go, bill 2000+ hours for their first 2-3 years, get burned out and leave. Resist this. Coast. Turn down work. The goal is to last as many years as possible without getting burned out. It’s way better for you, money-wise, to bill 1800 hours for 7 years than to bill 2000 hours for 5 years. Also if you’re not at a firm that guarantees bonus regardless of hours, lateral.

Source: I lasted almost 8 years with this method. Most years ended up 1700-1800 hours. I stacked over $1 million and paid off all my student loans. Extremely happy with the way things turned out.
A good advice but I think the highlighted is the key or otherwise you are going to start losing significant amount of $$$$ from 4/5th year on billing 1700/1800 by missing out on bonuses and it may actually be better, money wise, to bill 2k for X years than 1700/1800 for X plus years.

I am actually surprised that you managed to only bill 1700/1800 for that long at no hours req firm. There was a thread back where folks were arguing you are going to average more hours at no hours req firm and it may be better to stick to 2k hours req firm if your goal is to survive in biglaw.

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Re: Tips to survive a long time in Biglaw?

Post by Anonymous User » Fri May 27, 2022 4:12 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Fri May 27, 2022 2:54 pm
A good advice but I think the highlighted is the key or otherwise you are going to start losing significant amount of $$$$ from 4/5th year on billing 1700/1800 by missing out on bonuses and it may actually be better, money wise, to bill 2k for X years than 1700/1800 for X plus years.

I am actually surprised that you managed to only bill 1700/1800 for that long at no hours req firm. There was a thread back where folks were arguing you are going to average more hours at no hours req firm and it may be better to stick to 2k hours req firm if your goal is to survive in biglaw.
This - with RPL numbers it seems much harder to stay under 2k hours at no hours req firms. Sub 2000 hours at a no hours required firm is the absolute unicorn of biglaw associate life but does not appear to be a common path. At an hours minimum firm I think you have to go for bonus - otherwise inhouse probably pays the same if not more.

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Re: Tips to survive a long time in Biglaw?

Post by Anonymous User » Fri May 27, 2022 4:29 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Fri May 27, 2022 2:36 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Fri May 27, 2022 12:23 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Fri May 27, 2022 11:26 am
I think about biglaw the way I think about investing in the stock market. Time in biglaw beats timing biglaw. What I mean is that lots of juniors start off raring to go, bill 2000+ hours for their first 2-3 years, get burned out and leave. Resist this. Coast. Turn down work. The goal is to last as many years as possible without getting burned out. It’s way better for you, money-wise, to bill 1800 hours for 7 years than to bill 2000 hours for 5 years. Also if you’re not at a firm that guarantees bonus regardless of hours, lateral.

Source: I lasted almost 8 years with this method. Most years ended up 1700-1800 hours. I stacked over $1 million and paid off all my student loans. Extremely happy with the way things turned out.
What happened at year 8?
Burnout finally caught up with me. I left for in house…better hours, less stress. The old firm offered me a title and pay bump to stay, but I declined. Gotta step off the treadmill eventually.
Thanks, that good to know that you had the option to stay. What title, counsel or partner? Also was this at a firm with no hours requirement for bonus?

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Re: Tips to survive a long time in Biglaw?

Post by Anonymous User » Fri May 27, 2022 4:54 pm

In my experience, the associates that get crushed the most and burn out the quickest are the ones that are the most "effective" junior associates. That usually means: the most responsive, the most organized, the most available and the most engaged. Word spreads fast at law firms and everyone will want to staff you on their project.

The key to lasting in biglaw is not be one of those associates. You just need to be mediocre for the first 3-4 years (don't be the worst either). Work hard on figuring out how far you can push this boundary while still being reasonably liked by a majority of people you work with (easier said than done).

The secret is that the skillset to being a successful senior associate or partner is completely different from being a junior. People that are amazing juniors sometimes are shitty senior associates. Usually the gap in skillset relates either to (lack of) substantive knowledge or business development ability. Being less organized, engaged or responsive, or even working fewer hours, is more tolerated as you get more senior when you bring other more substantive skills to the table.

Use the extra free time you have from not working as much as the other gunner juniors to improve your substantive knowledge of your practice area/industry, or to network with your friends. Eventually you may even become more valuable than the superstar juniors while working 60-70% as many hours as them.

The caveat to all of this is that if you manage to coast for 4-5 years and bring no substantive skills to the table at the end, the firm may start to push you out.

Seriously? What are you waiting for?

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