I clerk for a judge right now but worked at a big firm, small firm, and even government. I'll just say that you can't bunch every big firm together, small firm together, or government job together. People upon hiring you will tell you what kind of commitment they are looking for. That said, you have to make sure you think hard about whether you want to make the sacrifices that are required for any job you choose. The legal industry can be lucrative for those with the right advocacy, writing, and social skills. However, the legal industry is a service industry. Lawyers cater to what others want us to do. So expect that the amount of money you make is directly related to how much work you get done. Rarely, in the legal field will you be able to get rich off a single case. Work/Life balance? That all depends on how much money you want to make. You can work at a big firm and leave at 5pm. Just don't expect a bonus or ever to make partner. The legal profession requires you to constantly show that you are improving your skills and network so that you become a valuable asset.