BigLaw Billable Hours/Schedule/Work Life Balance - Are these "trade offs" real? - BigLaw vs. Mid-Market Firms

(Deciding to leave, same firm different office, Reference requests)
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BigLaw Billable Hours/Schedule/Work Life Balance - Are these "trade offs" real? - BigLaw vs. Mid-Market Firms

Post by Anonymous User » Sun Mar 28, 2021 9:35 pm

I currently work at an Am Law 100 in a secondary yet growing market, and I want to know if the trade offs for working here versus BigLaw (like a Latham, Gunderson, Fenwick, Goodwin, and so on) are real.

I am constantly told that I have it good here for the following reasons: nicer people, lower billable hours, reasonable schedule, better work life balance, and better odds for making partner. I don't know how much of those opinions are from a time in BigLaw that isn't really like that anymore or just uninformed because they are not in my shoes as an associate at our firm (or don't want me to leave since we are already short on associates).

If you are in a BigLaw corporate practice (even better for emerging cos. and start-ups), it would be very helpful for me to hear what your "stats" are as follows:

  • Class Year/Rank: mid-level with the workload of a senior associate or even a junior partner at times
  • Pay: salary is approximately 60% of my class year on Cravath scale (without even accounting for bonuses and special COVID bonuses) and cost of living is about 30% less than a big city
  • Required Billables: 1900 required
  • Actual Billed: Billed just over 2050 this past year and 2000 the year before that
  • Schedule: Log on by 9 am and log off around 11 pm every week day, but log off by 9 pm on most Fridays. Work almost every weekend about 6 billable hours on average when it's not crazy.

    Typically bill to at least 5 matters a day which is not as productive as block billers in other practices. Lots of administrative and other non-billable tasks that I have to handle because we don't have enough support in the practice despite being the busiest one (one paralegal for whole corporate group, no junior associates, inexperienced assistant). I have already trimmed down the non-billable time to the extent possible. I am "at work" a lot but billable hours don't reflect that bc of the foregoing.
  • Work Life Balance: Practice group is pretty small so deal staffing is lean. I carry a lot of responsibility and often manage a few deals on my own at a time, so the pressure is constant and with the limited help available it can be very painful when someone on our team takes a vacation.

    Little resources on the staff side, so I'm usually the one doing everything from preparing signature pages, sending out the HelloSign or DocuSign to gather signatures, checking them in, compiling closing volumes, and all of that in addition to drafting the primary deal documents and ancillaries and due diligence. No feasible ways for me to delegate tasks appropriately or work on a deal other than myself doing pretty much all of it with some partner involvement, which makes taking time off difficult.

  • People: I like my few partners and they're way cool and fun to work with but we're a small office and there are only 7 or so associates in the overall corporate group, none of whom really socialize at the office or with work people. I feel like I am missing out on social interactions with peers my age compared to associates at bigger firms with large associate classes. I don't have a hard time getting along with people really.
  • Partnership: Partnership is not a must-have for me so I don't want to put much weight on that. I have no doubts that I could make it here, but pay would be almost on par with what senior associates make in BigLaw and, looking around, it seems that my partners bill about 1600-1900 hours.


Do I really have it that much better than BigLaw associates? Separate from your billable hours, are you spending a lot of non-billable time at work? How many weekends do you work? How lean are your deal teams? Do you enjoy the company of your colleagues?

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Re: BigLaw Billable Hours/Schedule/Work Life Balance - Are these "trade offs" real? - BigLaw vs. Mid-Market Firms

Post by Anonymous User » Sun Mar 28, 2021 9:45 pm

Damn, 9-11? I’m in biglaw and I don’t work that late.

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Re: BigLaw Billable Hours/Schedule/Work Life Balance - Are these "trade offs" real? - BigLaw vs. Mid-Market Firms

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Mar 29, 2021 2:11 am

How late do you work? Or can you give us a general idea of your schedule?

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Re: BigLaw Billable Hours/Schedule/Work Life Balance - Are these "trade offs" real? - BigLaw vs. Mid-Market Firms

Post by Mullens » Mon Mar 29, 2021 2:32 am

Wow you’re getting screwed. You’re pretty much working as much or more than a corporate midlevel at your average biglaw sweatshop and getting paid less than half.

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Re: BigLaw Billable Hours/Schedule/Work Life Balance - Are these "trade offs" real? - BigLaw vs. Mid-Market Firms

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Mar 29, 2021 3:01 am

The horror stories I’m always told are that BigLaw associates are 2300-2400 hours consistently with a same or worse schedule than OP post.

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Re: BigLaw Billable Hours/Schedule/Work Life Balance - Are these "trade offs" real? - BigLaw vs. Mid-Market Firms

Post by objctnyrhnr » Mon Mar 29, 2021 8:03 am

Yeah this sounds brutal. If you’re going to work that much, you might as well get paid for it.

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Re: BigLaw Billable Hours/Schedule/Work Life Balance - Are these "trade offs" real? - BigLaw vs. Mid-Market Firms

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Mar 29, 2021 11:25 am

OP here. Thanks for confirming my gut feeling.

What can/should I expect in terms of hours and schedule in BigLaw as a mid level?

Is it the same but better pay?

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Re: BigLaw Billable Hours/Schedule/Work Life Balance - Are these "trade offs" real? - BigLaw vs. Mid-Market Firms

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Mar 29, 2021 9:55 pm

Bump bc I am in a similar boat as OP and would like to know what corporate midlevels/seniors are billing last year or two and this year so far?

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Re: BigLaw Billable Hours/Schedule/Work Life Balance - Are these "trade offs" real? - BigLaw vs. Mid-Market Firms

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Mar 30, 2021 5:30 pm

  • - 5th year

    - cravath scale

    - 1950 hours required but actually billed 2204 hours but I feel like I have support on deals

    - start at 9 am and done by 7 pm and check email at home; tend to put in a couple of hours on saturday mornings but for the most part feel like i have weekends and most week nights

    - have a few friends at work/like them - seems like you're pretty tight with your partners, that's not really a thing in biglaw from my experience

    - partnership chances are slim here but I generally feel like I get paid well to do this job

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Re: BigLaw Billable Hours/Schedule/Work Life Balance - Are these "trade offs" real? - BigLaw vs. Mid-Market Firms

Post by Anonymous User » Sat Apr 03, 2021 2:14 am

Venture group in big law
Fifth year
Billed 2035 last year. Required to Bill 1950

I can’t fathom working your schedule

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Re: BigLaw Billable Hours/Schedule/Work Life Balance - Are these "trade offs" real? - BigLaw vs. Mid-Market Firms

Post by Ultramar vistas » Sat Apr 03, 2021 9:01 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Sat Apr 03, 2021 2:14 am
Venture group in big law
Fifth year
Billed 2035 last year. Required to Bill 1950

I can’t fathom working your schedule
4th year in V10 M&A; I wouldn’t exchange my schedule for yours, even if they paid me another spring bonus. I get 75% of weekends to myself, but am very much “always available” for whatever emails do come in. Used to consider 10-6 the actual office hours - now it’s just whenever there’s work to be done. I bill around 2100 on average.

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Re: BigLaw Billable Hours/Schedule/Work Life Balance - Are these "trade offs" real? - BigLaw vs. Mid-Market Firms

Post by Anonymous User » Fri Apr 09, 2021 6:01 pm

Ultramar vistas wrote:
Sat Apr 03, 2021 9:01 am
Anonymous User wrote:
Sat Apr 03, 2021 2:14 am
Venture group in big law
Fifth year
Billed 2035 last year. Required to Bill 1950

I can’t fathom working your schedule
4th year in V10 M&A; I wouldn’t exchange my schedule for yours, even if they paid me another spring bonus. I get 75% of weekends to myself, but am very much “always available” for whatever emails do come in. Used to consider 10-6 the actual office hours - now it’s just whenever there’s work to be done. I bill around 2100 on average.

Niceee. This is an ideal big law schedule imo.

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Re: BigLaw Billable Hours/Schedule/Work Life Balance - Are these "trade offs" real? - BigLaw vs. Mid-Market Firms

Post by Anonymous User » Sat May 01, 2021 5:27 am

This would be very helpful actually to know generally what someone in corporate bills on average based on class year, firm rank/size, and market. Analogous to salary and COL in my opinion.

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Re: BigLaw Billable Hours/Schedule/Work Life Balance - Are these "trade offs" real? - BigLaw vs. Mid-Market Firms

Post by Anonymous User » Sat May 01, 2021 4:28 pm

How are you working 9-11 every day plus 6 on the weekend and only billing 2050?

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Re: BigLaw Billable Hours/Schedule/Work Life Balance - Are these "trade offs" real? - BigLaw vs. Mid-Market Firms

Post by Anonymous User » Sat May 01, 2021 5:53 pm

OP here. I don’t get billable credit for training and Im the only one training our new associate (we’re a small group),
I have no admin help so I have to spend non-billable time doing everything from conflicts checks and opening new matters (fund clients open matter for each investment so this is at least 2x a week) which takes about an hour and a half, individualizing and saving up closing documents (our staff is supposed to do that as non-billable but again no help), for some reason I am always the associate scheduled to do lateral interviews which is interview and post-interview discussion with coordinator and a evaluation form (I have done 11 this year), etc. This all adds up but it’s also very disruptive in my practice when I am billing to 5+ clients a day and the transition time/lag is a real thing.

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Re: BigLaw Billable Hours/Schedule/Work Life Balance - Are these "trade offs" real? - BigLaw vs. Mid-Market Firms

Post by Anonymous User » Sun May 02, 2021 1:43 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Sat May 01, 2021 5:53 pm
OP here. I don’t get billable credit for training and Im the only one training our new associate (we’re a small group),
I have no admin help so I have to spend non-billable time doing everything from conflicts checks and opening new matters (fund clients open matter for each investment so this is at least 2x a week) which takes about an hour and a half, individualizing and saving up closing documents (our staff is supposed to do that as non-billable but again no help), for some reason I am always the associate scheduled to do lateral interviews which is interview and post-interview discussion with coordinator and a evaluation form (I have done 11 this year), etc. This all adds up but it’s also very disruptive in my practice when I am billing to 5+ clients a day and the transition time/lag is a real thing.
Dude, you are definitely getting screwed, at least from an hours/comp perspective.

I’m at midlaw getting 5-10% below market pay, in exchange for actual consistent 9:30-6:30 days, with occasional late nights (~11pm, only had two instances in a year where I went past midnight) and some weekend hours here and there. I get all the admin support I need and am not wasting my time doing any of the things you listed.

At my previous biglaw gig I still worked less than you did. That’s way too much admin work unhelpful to your career. I would lateral to a market paying firm, and go back to that firm as a partner later if you really really like the people.

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Re: BigLaw Billable Hours/Schedule/Work Life Balance - Are these "trade offs" real? - BigLaw vs. Mid-Market Firms

Post by Anonymous User » Mon May 03, 2021 1:57 am

About how many hours do you end up billing per year on that midlaw schedule? How does that compare to your biglaw firm?

I have this fear that if I go to a "market paying"/big law firm, that I'll end up working more but wondering if I'll just work the same but yield more hours?

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Re: BigLaw Billable Hours/Schedule/Work Life Balance - Are these "trade offs" real? - BigLaw vs. Mid-Market Firms

Post by Anonymous User » Mon May 03, 2021 4:05 pm

It looks like you should move.

Class Year/Rank: junior associate

Geographic Location: Midwest

Pay: salary is approximately 70% of my class year on Cravath scale (without accounting for bonuses)

Required Billables: 1900 required

Actual Billed: On pace for 2100. Last year was bad (COVID)

Schedule: Log on by 7 am and log off around 4 -5 pm every week day. Generally have all weekends and evenings but am always available.

Work Life Balance: Pretty good.

People: Small practice group. Know all the shareholders.

Partnership: Don't know.

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