Celebrating 10 years! 2007-2017

Worth it?

Hello all, Wanted to see if I could get a bit of advice f compassarray08/08/17
Define "pay is not bad." lawyer208/08/17
What is the salary? 55+ hours is doable as a first law job o vohod08/08/17
What's your hourly and bennies? isthisit08/08/17
It's impossible to fully assess without knowing your comp st pauperesq08/08/17
Salary is the important piece here. Also, keep in mind that thirdtierlaw08/08/17
You don't need high pay, and you want plenty of family time. jeffm08/08/17
Thanks for all the replies, it's appreciated. Salary is compassarray08/08/17
you're an attorney. That requires long hours. Deal with it dingbat08/09/17
Not true. I don't know anybody who works for a firm and has fettywap08/09/17
At my firm a few of the partners work long hours (it seems b loblawyer08/09/17
Not for 55k it shouldn't. I'd say his hours are on the uppe karlfarbman08/09/17
I don't think it's reasonable to expect that many hours if t fettywap08/08/17
If you are not interested in litigation, "paying your dues" guyingorillasuit08/08/17
Gigs is right. I'm not sure that means you have to put in 5 jeffm08/09/17
OP what is the billing rate of the work you do and what is t karlfarbman08/09/17
The answer to this one isn't simple. Is your employer an bittersweet08/09/17
Man, I know it's all relative, but there is no way in hell I lawyer208/09/17
The issue is, all of these people that are saying "no way I' shikes08/09/17
No one said quit with no other job lined up. Just look for karlfarbman08/10/17
Long hours, low salary, small firm. No matter how you shine anothernjlawyer08/10/17
"Literally one year, and your lateral opportunities will exp sanka08/10/17
I mean, I don't know if you're in Idaho or something, but li shikes08/10/17
Is this hot market just ID and comp? I have friends in ID wh loblawyer08/11/17
Obviously depending on current pay and what type of bump you shikes08/11/17
I don't want to give too much away, but I was pretty much at compassarray08/10/17

compassarray (Aug 8, 2017 - 3:59 pm)

Hello all,

Wanted to see if I could get a bit of advice from the more seasoned. I am a newly-licensed first year lawyer in a large city with a seemingly good legal market. Got a position in a small firm with a niche practice. The people are cool, but have been told I need to be working 55+ hours a week. The pay is not bad, and everything else is pretty decent.

I wanted to see what you all thought about whether it is worth it to continue on down the litigation pathway or if it might be worthwhile to check out non-attorney jobs like compliance. The work is not too bad, but I don't want to get stuck working 55+ hours a week for the indefinite future. I'm not super concerned about making big money or whatever, but would rather have decent pay with a schedule that allows for a good amount of time with the family. I can see litigation getting irritating and very frustrating over time. I am willing to put some time in, but I'm starting to wonder if it might just be better to head somewhere else, if the hours are better and it pays as much.

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lawyer2 (Aug 8, 2017 - 4:04 pm)

Define "pay is not bad."

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vohod (Aug 8, 2017 - 4:04 pm)

What is the salary? 55+ hours is doable as a first law job out of LS because you are used to the grind.

55 hours means this is really all you will do. It sucks but it beats roofing for $10/hr.

Unless you have other options, I'd accept and troop through 6 months. At that point apply to new jobs with the understanding the hunt may last days to months to a year.

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isthisit (Aug 8, 2017 - 4:14 pm)

What's your hourly and bennies?

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pauperesq (Aug 8, 2017 - 4:25 pm)

It's impossible to fully assess without knowing your comp structure and your definition of "large city." Large as in high COL (NY/San Fran, etc.)? Or large as in Milwaukee?

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thirdtierlaw (Aug 8, 2017 - 4:35 pm)

Salary is the important piece here. Also, keep in mind that compliance can be a mixed bag. You'll find compliance jobs at $45k-50k with a typical 40 hour week, except for reporting season. Then on the other end, I know a guy who works compliance at Merrill in NYC. Base salary around 80k then a bonus on top. He works, at a minimum, 60 hr weeks. So just know that compliance isn't always the 9-5 you'd want, though I believe it is more often than not.

Job hunts can take awhile, there is nothing wrong with putting out your feelers for compliance gigs. The big thing is to keep getting experience at your current firm. Getting your second legal job is much easier than getting your first. So keep it a secret you're looking elsewhere and just keep chugging along.

If you're already questioning if litigation is for you and you're only a first year, you should definitely explore other options. You should still be in your "honeymoon" phase where you think the legal profession is awesome. There is absolutely nothing wrong with jumping ship to something you enjoy more.

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jeffm (Aug 8, 2017 - 4:39 pm)

You don't need high pay, and you want plenty of family time. The job does not sound like a good fit.

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compassarray (Aug 8, 2017 - 6:26 pm)

Thanks for all the replies, it's appreciated.

Salary is in mid 50's, have decent health insurance and a week of vacation. I'm in a decently low COL big city in TX. The practice is not bad, and is pretty interesting at times, but it's mostly the sheer amount of time spent at the office and somewhat the irritation of other parties that make me question the long-term prospects.

I'm not adverse to pounding it out for a bit, especially since the people in the office are great, but is it usual to spend 55+ hours a week in the office long-term in a small litigation firm? Does it sound pretty unreasonable to expect 50 or less hour work weeks generally?

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dingbat (Aug 9, 2017 - 7:45 am)

you're an attorney. That requires long hours. Deal with it

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fettywap (Aug 9, 2017 - 10:42 am)

Not true. I don't know anybody who works for a firm and has to put in those hours. Maybe if they're preparing for a big trial, but it's not the norm.

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loblawyer (Aug 9, 2017 - 10:50 am)

At my firm a few of the partners work long hours (it seems by choice, the types who don't view long hours as a detriment or tradeoff), but many partners are 9-6 at most and most of the associates don't work any more than that.

Should add most of the associates I've talked
to have little desire to make partner or replicate the workaholic partners' lifestyles. I'm not sure if this is generational or some self selection due to this not being biglaw or midlaw.

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karlfarbman (Aug 9, 2017 - 11:43 am)

Not for 55k it shouldn't. I'd say his hours are on the upper end of places that pay like that. 9-6 is more common. I say that with caveat that we don't know the pay scale of this place. If there are huge jumps after 1 or 2 years it's not unreasonable to have a year to test him out. But generally places that start at 55k don't have huge jumps.

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fettywap (Aug 8, 2017 - 8:31 pm)

I don't think it's reasonable to expect that many hours if they only going go pay you in the 50s. Even for Texas, those are slave wages. The legal assistants in my office make that much to take 2 hour lunches and smoke the rest of the day until 5:00. You're being used.

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guyingorillasuit (Aug 8, 2017 - 10:01 pm)

If you are not interested in litigation, "paying your dues" at a litigation firm may be a waste of time career-wise. If you are interested, your earnings should go up rather steeply. First year attorneys don't make much money anywhere outside big firms, but once you are 3-5 years in, you should see your income go up significantly.

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jeffm (Aug 9, 2017 - 9:47 am)

Gigs is right. I'm not sure that means you have to put in 55 hours a week in order to pay your dues, though. However, if you do put in that kind of time, you should expect to learn a lot quickly, as Gigs suggests. Your market value should jump just as he says. On the flip-side, it can prepare you to go solo. A lot of people are afraid because they don't believe they have the skills. If you put in 55 hour weeks for a few years, you should definitely develop the skills.

Word of warning, though. 55 hours is arduous. It might burn you out and make you hate law. Ultimately, just keep in mind that you can do well as a solo working far less.

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karlfarbman (Aug 9, 2017 - 11:46 am)

OP what is the billing rate of the work you do and what is the partner:associate ratio? This will determine whether or not 55 hours/week for 55k is worth it in the long run. Obviously it's not a guarantee the partners won't keep all the money even as you progress but if the rates on the stuff you're doing are decent then hopefully the starting pay is just to test you out and you'd get large increases over time. Then you at least have the decision of "do I want to work above average hours for higher pay?" If they're working you 55 hours/week for low rate stuff that isn't going to yield but so much profit for the partners then leave.

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bittersweet (Aug 9, 2017 - 11:53 am)

The answer to this one isn't simple.

Is your employer an old school attorney? When I just got out I worked as a legal minion for just 21K/year. Granted, I was a minion and not licensed (in that state anyway), but the guy wanted an attorney underling putting in 5-6 days a week, for 8-12 hours a day. Turns out they let me go after a couple months because they didn't need a legal minion, they needed a legal secretary that could type 90 wpm. Even then, I was working less hours than the boss who was over 60.

Anyway - The point is this. Before you up and leave you need to assess whether your boss' attitude and expectation is going to be similar to others in the area and how much clout s/he has in the area. If you leave on bad terms, you boss may talk about you to other places you may want to work.

Yes, 55 hours a week is arduous. But it is hardly uncommon. Welcome to the legal field.

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lawyer2 (Aug 9, 2017 - 12:43 pm)

Man, I know it's all relative, but there is no way in hell I'd work those hours for $50k a year. That said, I was a non-traditional law student with an established IT career before going to law school so I understand you gotta start somewhere. My grownup advice is do what makes you happy, not what you're willing to put up with. Life is too short not to be satisfied.

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shikes (Aug 9, 2017 - 10:07 pm)

The issue is, all of these people that are saying "no way I'd ever do that" likely have other options, experience to get other options, or a trust fund.

As a new attorney you do what you need to do. For 50k, 55 hours a week regardless of how nice the people are isn't "decent money". Its low. But at the same time you don't have many skills yet. Give it literally one year, and your lateral opportunities will explode.

Further, 55 hours a week isn't THAT bad as people seem to say. I don't know of any non government lawyers outside of solos that work less than 50, and frankly anything under 60 lets you have a decent life outside of work. I work 8-7 Mon-Fri, still get to the gym and have a couple of hours for dinner and relaxing during the week and then take the entire weekend off. Its not great, but its also manageable.

I would grind it out for the year, take on every assignment possible and ask for more just to get the experience, remember to save ALL of your work and email to yourself or only a USB to have for future employment as templates and/or writing samples. At the end of the year review, flatly ask for more money and start immediately looking if you don't get it or get a small bump. I've seen people go from 50 to 68k after one year at same firm. But seriously, you have the right attitude about it and don't need to let JDU beat you down. Yeah, you're underpaid for those hours, but its not 25k or anything, and you like the people you're with while learning a ton. Seriously, ONE YEAR, then the lateral options will be aplenty. People are moving around like maniacs right now in my jurisdiction. 6-12 months is almost standard. My boss constantly starts sentences with "If you decide to stick around here long enough..."

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karlfarbman (Aug 10, 2017 - 8:45 am)

No one said quit with no other job lined up. Just look for a better job when you can if you don't like the long term potential at this one. You just reiterated what everyone else said.

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anothernjlawyer (Aug 10, 2017 - 10:23 am)

Long hours, low salary, small firm. No matter how you shine it up, that's a sh!tlaw job.

Besides the fact that it's sh!tlaw, you have to ask yourself how portable your "niche-practice skills" are going to be. Maybe they are, I don't know, but don't spend years slaving away to pigeonhole yourself with a limited, non-marketable experience background.

You don't want to stay in sh!tlaw. No matter what. As I see it, you've got two options:

1) Takes Shikes's advice, above. Work hard for a year, and if there isn't a serious salary increase (at least 15-20k) for year 2, leave, even if you don't have a new job lined up. Don't spend 3 years waiting for things to improve. 55 hours a week will take its toll; you aren't going to work that much and conduct a serious search for other jobs.

2) Leave now. Based on your current job, I'm betting you didn't go to a top school or have top grades; don't let the law school hierarchy define the rest of your life. Find a job with a real company and put in the hours someplace where you can actually move up.

You're young, you have time, but you don't have unlimited time. Don't waste it in sh!tlaw.

Good luck.

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sanka (Aug 10, 2017 - 10:49 am)

"Literally one year, and your lateral opportunities will explode. "

Fascinating hopeful assumption......

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shikes (Aug 10, 2017 - 7:51 pm)

I mean, I don't know if you're in Idaho or something, but literally everyone I know in a major market who wants to lateral is stockpiling interviews. If OP is in litigation, these mid-level Comp and ID jobs are all over the place. Believe me, I am as pessimistic as they get, but JDU overblows it even for me. Experienced laterals jump all over the place. At my first firm, the 4 associates that wanted to lateral all found new positions within 2 months. At my second job so many people left within a 6 month span that they all blur together and its difficult to count. My current firm has lost 6 people and picked up 9 within last 6 months. Its happening.

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loblawyer (Aug 11, 2017 - 8:10 am)

Is this hot market just ID and comp? I have friends in ID who had no problem getting interviews but it took awhile to find one with a big enough pay bump to justify moving.

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shikes (Aug 11, 2017 - 9:32 pm)

Obviously depending on current pay and what type of bump you're looking for, it may not be an easy find. But OP has horrendous pay, so basically anywhere he laterals to will be a bump.

My experience has been transactional laterals get snatched up basically within a month of applying, and ID/Comp may take slightly longer, but if the pay requests are reasonable they land something within 2-3. The main issue is laterals who do ID/Comp and think they are walking into a 150k salary. Its just not gonna happen. Some of these laterlas just are looking for too much of a salary bump when the market honestly doesn't call for it. Most ID/Comp attorneys with 3-5 years of experience make ~85-95k in my market. If you're making 75k and are wanting six figures it may be a difficult search. If you're just looking for a 15-20% raise, then you're probably going to be fine. On the flip side, transactional attorneys make jumps for 50% raises all the time early on.

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compassarray (Aug 10, 2017 - 3:51 pm)

I don't want to give too much away, but I was pretty much at very bottom of my law school class and didn't really do jack - no journals or extracurriculars. I went to a decent school and interned at a few places during school, but really did poorly in law school. Big law and all that was pretty much out of the question from the beginning, so it seems likely this is probably the limiting factor at this point...

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