This thread reminds me of the reasons why I left the big law firm and went in house.
For me, working in-house is much better.
I get to see my family, I don't have to worry about billable hours, and I have a real stake in the results of the work I do here. All of these things make me happy. If I'd stayed at my firm, I would probably have made partner by now, but I would also not have all the great memories of spending so much time with my wife and kids and doing the other things I enjoy. My quality of life is more important to me than the extra money I might have made had I stayed at the big firm.
Here's a billable hours anecdote from my big firm days.
(My apologies to all those who have already read it in another thread.)
My first year out of law school, I attended a firm party at the home of one of the senior partners of the firm. His house was a huge mansion in Greenwich, CT. Well over 10,000 square feet, a big, beautiful manicured lawn, a boat slip, pool, and a beautiful view of the ocean.
One of the other senior partners called all of us first year associates around him. He said:
"You see Bill's house? It's pretty amazing, isn't it." (appreciative nods from all of us first years) "It would be pretty cool to be able to afford a house like this someday, wouldn't it?" (more affirmative nods from the first year associates) "Well," he continued, "I'm going to tell you a secret about our law firm." "If you work really really hard, and I mean REALLY hard, that means weekends, holidays, birthdays, and late into the night . . . and you bill thousands of hours, and generate new business for our firm . . . and you do that year after year. . . . then Bill will be able to build another house, just like this one, down in Florida."