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Lawyer, Law School, BigLaw FAQ

Swag22

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I've looked through this forum and have noticed a couple threads about the law profession and was thinking we could put all the information into this thread for people who have questions about being a lawyer and what it takes.

I have done some research about this field on the internet and a couple books, but I find it more convenient to get a first hand account from the members of this board who actually are lawyers, etc.

Personally, I was wondering about the balance between work and a social life when you're a lawyer for a big firm or small. I was also wondering about the education it takes to be successful in this field as well as salaries one might get. Another main concern is daily hours a successful lawyer must work(Time you must be at work vs. Time you get to go home). Also: the average work day for an associate at a BigLaw firm, and the activities one might see.

Thanks for the help
smile.gif
 

DNW

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Why don't you just read the other threads first and ask here questions that haven't been answered?
 

Swag22

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I've read them a couple times, but only a few of my questions have been touched on
 

jaymovement

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watching LOST got me thinking...

on the island i see the need for the doctor, soldier, architect, handyman, fisher, hell even gofer fatboy, but what would a lawyer be good for?
 

Pelikan2

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Okay, let me start by saying I'm only a 2L law student, so my information isn't necessarily all first-hand. That said, most of my answers are fairly common knowledge to law students headed into BigLaw, so it's probably accurate. Also, I summered at a smaller firm last summer and will be headed to a big NYC firm this summer.

Work-life balance is relative, to be sure. It is definitely possible, if not easy to attain, at a small firm. I summered at a small, regional firm (40 lawyers), and I found the hours to be excellent. Generally, most attorneys were gone by 6PM during the week and most did work Saturday mornings but took the rest of the weekend off. That said, it's still lawyering, and trials/closings/signing/etc require long hours occasionally. I spent one of my weekends entirely in the office, probably from 8am to 8pm, but it's an occasional thing.

Large firms can be different. Some are rumored to be "lifestyle" firms, and I think that's probably half-true. They require fewer hours than the infamous but prestigious sweatshops of the V20 but significantly more than the smaller regional firms. That said, it can definitely depend on practice group. I imagine that a lot of corporate associates billed fewer than 1800 hours this year, which would be a great lifestyle – except for the constant, paralyzing fear of losing your job. It's hard to predict an average number of hours worked (which is greater than hours billed), but I'd guess the average associate at a big NYC firm logs 50-60 hours in the office in any given week (current economic climate and corporate departments aside). Personally, I think that's sufficient to find work-life balance, but it's definitely not a solid 40 hours and going home at 5pm everyday.

First-year associate salaries for BigLaw are $160,000 plus bonus (which are about $17,000 or half of last year). Salaries at a smaller firm will be all over the board (say, $70k-$140k). My firm paid $140,000, but that's pretty high considering I was in a small city and much smaller market.

Regarding education, again, it depends on what kind of job you want. If you want a BigLaw firm job, I'd say you need to either go to a top 20 law school or get top 10% grades at a slightly lower-ranked school. If you're in the top 14 schools, you can go anywhere you want with decent grades, though some of my classmates have definitely had a harder time this year.
 

TheFoo

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^^^ I think the improved work-life balance at small firms is partially (maybe largely) a myth.
 

Pelikan2

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Originally Posted by mafoofan
^^^ I think the improved work-life balance at small firms is partially (maybe largely) a myth.
More than size, I would guess it depends largely on region and that smaller, regional (by which I mean cities other than the few really big markets) firms offer a better lifestyle. The work-life balance is likely a lot better in Omaha, NE than in New York, regardless of how big each firm is.
 

NorCal

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Originally Posted by jaymovement
watching LOST got me thinking...

on the island i see the need for the doctor, soldier, architect, handyman, fisher, hell even gofer fatboy, but what would a lawyer be good for?


Suing the airline when they finally get off the island
smile.gif
 

JSC437

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Just want to say...

My best friend went to Harvard Law School, LLM from NYU Law school (i think that is what they call the law specialization degree) is a partner in tax law from a very well known firm, makes a fortune ($$$$$$$$$) and absolutely positively hates his profession.

Many of my good friends went to NYU, Harvard and Columbia law school... they all make $$$$ and they all hate their job. Primarily because of the work/life balance. From what i understand, it is absolutely brutal. It could also be their specialty. One does M&A, one does tax and the other does intellectual property.

Sometimes i want to meet up with my friends for a drink after work. My friends tell me "ok, i will leave work early and come meet you". Early for my friends is leaving work at 7pm. Keep in mind they start work at 7:30am or so.

A 12 hour day is a short day for these guys and they are senior attorneys with 10 years experience.

That being said.. when I finish my MBA degree next year... i am planning on going to law school. lol
 

samblau

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Originally Posted by JSC4President
Just want to say...

My best friend went to Harvard Law School, LLM from NYU Law school (i think that is what they call the law specialization degree) is a partner in tax law from a very well known firm, makes a fortune ($$$$$$$$$) and absolutely positively hates his profession.

Many of my good friends went to NYU, Harvard and Columbia law school... they all make $$$$ and they all hate their job. Primarily because of the work/life balance. From what i understand, it is absolutely brutal. It could also be their specialty. One does M&A, one does tax and the other does intellectual property.

Sometimes i want to meet up with my friends for a drink after work. My friends tell me "ok, i will leave work early and come meet you". Early for my friends is leaving work at 7pm. Keep in mind they start work at 7:30am or so.

A 12 hour day is a short day for these guys and they are senior attorneys with 10 years experience.

That being said.. when I finish my MBA degree next year... i am planning on going to law school. lol


Golden Handcuffs...I'm sorry, with those creds, Hardvard/LLM from NYU (their tax LLM is the best) and enough experience to make partner at a large firm they should have $$$ saved and more opportunities, even in this market, than anyone else. It is clearly the $. Partners, even this year, will make over $1 mil at large NYC firms. They could go in house for $200/$300k (maybe more) and work much less. They could easily lateral to other firms and delegate BS work down. People, at that stage, work those hours for a multitude of reasons. People that work insane hours are 27 y/o like me trying to achieve that status. If I had a few million saved I would never work 80 hour weeks in a field I hated, not when I could make an excellent living working much less. Hell, go take $100k to be a professor at a law school. Its practically a vacation in comparison.
 

odoreater

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I work at a biglaw firm (to the extent that "biglaw" is defined as firms in the amlaw 200) in a slightly smaller market. I'm in my third year now. I went to law school at a top 25 or 30 school (Fordham) and did very well (top 10% of class after first year and law review).

My experience at my firm was slightly different than the usual associate at a big firm I got a ton of sustantive experience handling cases (litigation side). I've taken a ton of depositions, I've appeared in court man times on substantive motions, I've handled arbitrations and mediations, negotiated settlements, and I've even second-chaired a trial.

I work a lot of hours. Billing over 2000 hours is hard. I don't always work a ton of hours per day, but to make up for that, I barely took any vacation (maybe 2 1/2 weeks over the past 2 years) and worked a lot of weekends.

I don't regret my time at a big firm, but I'm glad that I'm leaving in less than a month to start my own firm.
 

warmpi

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how has tax law not been mentioned yet. big money in that.
 

RedLantern

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It seems like 99% of the students at my school either hated tax when they took it or are so sure they will hate it that they refuse to take it.
 

JSC437

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Originally Posted by warmpi
how has tax law not been mentioned yet. big money in that.

My buddy does tax law and handles Hedge Fund accounts and things like that.... super huge enormous money in that segment of tax law
 

JSC437

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Originally Posted by odoreater

I don't regret my time at a big firm, but I'm glad that I'm leaving in less than a month to start my own firm.


Good for you. I think it is a dream come true to be self employed. I get so sick of taking orders from management all day. lol
 

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