Login required to started new threads

Login required to post replies

LR attorneys: How's that work/life balance? (upcoming OCI)
Quote | Reply
Finished my first year of school—all went fairly well (somewhere between top 15%–20%; still waiting on whether I wrote onto law review).

I've been interning with a district judge for the summer, but I'm still uncertain on where I want to end up. The stories of biglaw hours scare the hell out of me, but "small law" seems like it is impossible to count on right out of school.

Anyone want to share their work/life balance stories/suggestions? Do you even have time for triathlon training outside of working?

Instagram | floathammerholdon
Last edited by: cloy26: Jun 18, 16 13:32
Quote Reply
Re: LR attorneys: How's that work/life balance? (upcoming OCI) [cloy26] [ In reply to ]
Quote | Reply
What is this "life" of which you speak?

I kid! I kid! I dunno. It's all about expectations. My firm broke from a big firm. Seven of us partners left and started our own boutique firm that specializes labor and employment law, school law, and benefits. We now have 17 attorneys. My associates bill 2000-2100 hours/year. It isn't a requirement. We require a minimum of 1800. We are just that busy and associate bonuses are driven by billable hours. But, I push for balance and if I see a pattern of 50 hour weeks, I have a talk with the associate to back it up a bit. Burn out does me no good.

As for me, I billed just under 2200 hours last year. I led the partners and was only behind one associate. I do litigation all over the country. So, I spend a shit-ton of time traveling and sitting in hotels. It is fun at first, but takes its toll. Not all hours are created equally. For example, two weeks ago, I spent 4 days in Shreveport, LA in depositions. That week, I billed around 45 hours. But, that 45 hours included 4 days away from home, away from wifie and the dogs, away from my own bed, etc. That is not even close to the same as 45 hours in the office, able to go home every night.

I "retired" from Ironman racing last year. I was training 20-25 hours per week. It was like having a part time job and, when it got to be part of my schedule rather than a break from my job, I decided to hang it up. The nice thing about my job is, even though it is a ton of hours, I have a lot of flexibility. I could leave late afternoon to train, then eat dinner, then get back on the computer and finish work at night. To me, the flexibility is awesome. But, I am a partner, so I have more freedom. I was elected President of the firm about 18 months ago. So, on top of working, I have to run the firm. That adds stress, but, I gotta admit, I love running my own firm. So, it is worth it.

As someone who came from a big firm to a boutique firm, I can tell you that the support you have in a big firm is great. But, it is tough having to fight for your department funds and it sucks having people who don't even really know you determine your comp every year. I love being in a small firm. But, it is tough being independent and the competition is brutal.

Bottom line - I love what I do. I cannot imagine doing anything else. The stress at times is insane. I am on call 24-7. Even on vacation, I have to respond to email and sometimes have conference calls. But, the rewards are great.

Not sure whether I answered any of your questions, but those are my rambling thoughts.

If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went. - Will Rogers

Emery's Third Coast Triathlon | Tri Wisconsin Triathlon Team | Push Endurance | GLWR
Quote Reply
Re: LR attorneys: How's that work/life balance? (upcoming OCI) [JSA] [ In reply to ]
Quote | Reply
As always, such great insight! Thanks!

You hung up 140.6 distance, but do you still train? I would absolutely lose my mind if I was forced to quit cold turkey. I'm just assuming that the first three years of the life is going to suck before (if I can) pay off the loans and jump ship to a smaller firm.

Also, as far as gaining experience, big firms give you "experience" but is it really quality experience? Would a young associate get better, more substantive work in a smaller firm?

Instagram | floathammerholdon
Quote Reply
Re: LR attorneys: How's that work/life balance? (upcoming OCI) [cloy26] [ In reply to ]
Quote | Reply
cloy26 wrote:

You hung up 140.6 distance, but do you still train? I would absolutely lose my mind if I was forced to quit cold turkey. I'm just assuming that the first three years of the life is going to suck before (if I can) pay off the loans and jump ship to a smaller firm.


Oh yes! I don't do triathlons anymore, but I still run and ride mountain bikes. I raced fat bikes last year. I also lift weights, which I never did (except for some core off-season training). I like being able to get a little more muscular. I still train 6 days per week, just not anywhere near what I used to do when I was doing Ironman races. If I did not have the physical fitness release, I would lose my mind.

cloy26 wrote:
Also, as far as gaining experience, big firms give you "experience" but is it really quality experience? Would a young associate get better, more substantive work in a smaller firm?


It depends. Realize that not all firms are created equal. But I have experience in a couple large firms. In the larger firms, new associates spend most of their time researching and writing legal memos. Quite often, they are not actually writing briefs, motions, etc., until after a few years. In smaller firm, associates tend to draft more substantive work. My associates, even the new ones, do not draft legal memos. They do a lot of legal research, but we usually then have them write direct portions of the brief, pleading, etc. With my stuff -- if you wrote it, your name goes on it. I spent a year ghost writing and it bugged me after a while. This was especially after being in the Army JAG corps and trying my own cases for a few years. My associates put their name on anything they write. Sometimes, the client needs to see a partner's name, so, I sign it, but they have their names on it. As I get the client more comfortable with that associate, I have the associate sign. That may not be a big deal for a lot of people, but my associates seem to appreciate it.

But, it depends on the firm, the practice area, etc. Larger firms typically pay associates more. You would be surprised, but partners often make more in boutique firms because of the lower overhead. But, again, there are so many variables, it is hard to speak in generalities.

If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went. - Will Rogers

Emery's Third Coast Triathlon | Tri Wisconsin Triathlon Team | Push Endurance | GLWR
Last edited by: JSA: Jun 18, 16 19:26
Quote Reply
Re: LR attorneys: How's that work/life balance? (upcoming OCI) [JSA] [ In reply to ]
Quote | Reply
I don't want to quote it, because it will make the thread hard to read, but all of the above^^^^^^^^ is good info.

Generally, in smaller firms you will get to do more actual work sooner, but you may get zero credit for the work you do. Firms differ, but it can be enormously frustrating to work for a parther that won't attribute work to you. As a young associate I drafted the majority of a Supreme Court brief, but was completely left off the sig block. Pissed me off and a small part of the reason I left.

FWIW:

I own and run a small (currently solo) law firm. I started out clerking at a mid-size local firm and they hired me on full time after graduation. It was, fine. I knew in school that big law would drive me nuts, so I didn't even consider it. Turns out that small law drove me batshit as well, so after about 3.5 years + 2 clerking there I lit off and hung a shingle.

Best I can say is not for everyone, but perfect for me. Lots of risk and opportunity to go broke and fail. I was fortunate that my wife is quite successful and could readily carry us if that happened. So, for me, there was little risk. In the end it worked out. Twelve years in and I'm in a pretty comfortable place. I do 90% criminal defense ranging from traffic-- A felonies. I have employed other lawyers, and clerks, but I find things work easiest overall with just me and a few support staff. They get me where I need to go and I get to spend most of my time in court , which is my favorite thing.

Work/life balance is whatever I make of it. I generally take on more than I should, but at least I can control it. I write this post from the deck at our lake house after a great day on the water and a few beers. I left about 1:00 on Friday, which is about average during lake season since there is nobody to yell at me for leaving early.

I still train and race up to 140.6 and 50m although my legs are starting to break down. my schedule is as flexible as I'm willing to make it. I have no problem fitting workouts on between appearances most of the time, although I frequently draft docs and review emails after the rest of the family goes to bed. I probably work as many hours as I did as an assoc., but at least I get to choose when and how to work those hours.

In the end, it's what you make it. Big law, in my opinion, is not designed with work/life balance in mind. There are other options, but most of them lack the financial security.
Quote Reply
Re: LR attorneys: How's that work/life balance? (upcoming OCI) [cloy26] [ In reply to ]
Quote | Reply
My experience has been that work/life balance is possible, but it can take a while to get there. And even when you do figure out where your balance lies, it's not this elegant, static balance where you achieve it once and then you're all set; it's a constant struggle to maintain it, and you often feel like you're letting people down on one front or another.

I went to a big firm out of law school, intending to stay there for no more than 3 years and then shift to something more sane. I was there for 7.5 years, left less than a year before I was up for junior partner, and only did so because I had to go see about a girl (now my wife) who was moving across the country to go to grad school. Then I spent 3+ years in-house; then helped start a small firm with my old boss from my old firm, who is now my partner. Work/life balance now is about as good as it has ever been, but I'm still at the mercy of clients all the time, and it's frightening to be the boss with nobody to pass the buck up to.

I worked hard at the big firm, though not nearly as hard as some. I trained pretty hard for tris at that time too - I enjoyed it and it was a necessary stress reliever. I didn't do much besides work and train though. I still train a fair bit, don't race much anymore, but that's a choice rather than a necessity.

Good stories of big firm work/life: I worked with extremely bright people, both within the firm and as clients. I had 2 outstanding mentors who took the time to teach me how to be an excellent lawyer but also a good person. People bash the Ivy Leagues/East Coast elites a lot in this forum, and sometimes with good reason, but I will say some that some of the smartest people I've ever met came out of Harvard and MIT - incandescently brilliant minds. I represented Nobel Prize winners and helped then do technology deals, then watched the Internet and medical technology change because of the transactions we did. I learned that even junior associates can make big impacts in the right circumstances. I pulled an all-nighter and then drank coffee with a billionaire and an ambassador while we watched the sun rise over Boston Harbor from 35 stories up in a Master of the Universe conference room, and at the end they clapped me on the shoulder and said 'good job'.

Bad stories of big firm work/life: I got dumped by 2 girlfriends in large part because work demands made me a ghost of a romantic partner, and I was stressed out and exhausted even when I was around. I got stress hives working monster deals with silly hours where I was terrified of fucking up transactions worth many millions of dollars because i didn't really know what I was doing sometimes. I have taken calls on Thanksgiving, Christmas and half an hour before the funeral of a good friend when I should have been comforting the friend's mother. I sat in that same Master of the Universe conference room noted above and listened to 6 lawyers argue for 45 minutes trying to find a way to structure an M&A deal in a way that would allow both buyer and seller to avoid having to provide health coverage for an employee with terminal cancer. I billed 15 hours the day of that conference call, woke up the next morning and had a vodka tonic in the shower before going to work because I was ashamed to be part of that transaction.

In-House and helping run my own firm: It's better and balance is easier to achieve (or at least get close to). Neither could have happened without doing the time in the big firm at the outset of my career.

Suggestions: If you manage to get a big firm job, don't get addicted to the money. If you get a small firm job, don't let them work you to death for short money. Regardless of what job you get, don't let your job define who you are. My experience has been that a stint at a big firm can be a good education and build a valuable professional network, but unless you absolutely live and breathe the job, you should leave before it consumes you (drinking vodka during your morning shower is a bad sign). The happiest lawyers I know are either in-house or have gone to smaller firms after a stint in the majors, but in both of those cases, you usually have to have done some time in the trenches first. And keep exercising no matter what - it will keep you sane, your waistline reasonable, and help you sleep at night.
Last edited by: wimsey: Jun 18, 16 22:11
Quote Reply
Re: LR attorneys: How's that work/life balance? (upcoming OCI) [cloy26] [ In reply to ]
Quote | Reply
I'm in-house now (15 years) so my quality of life is pretty darn good compared to being at "big-law" (4 years).

I always knew "big-law" wasn't for me and I went into it with a plan to be out within 3-5 years depending on how things play out. Did I get the same level of quality experience that someone comparable would have gotten at a smaller firm at at DA's office, probably not. However, would I did get badge or seal of approval from my "big law" experience that still resonates today. I also got a shit ton of money that enabled me to pay off all my student loans and be nearly debt free when I made the transition.

One common misconception about being in-house is that the hours are easier. They certainly can be but in my experience you're really not going to advance if you treat it that way. I work just as much as at the firm it's just that I've got much more flexibility and am not slave to a time sheet.
Quote Reply
Re: LR attorneys: How's that work/life balance? (upcoming OCI) [wimsey] [ In reply to ]
Quote | Reply
wimsey wrote:
My experience has been that work/life balance is possible, but it can take a while to get there. And even when you do figure out where your balance lies, it's not this elegant, static balance where you achieve it once and then you're all set; it's a constant struggle to maintain it, and you often feel like you're letting people down on one front or another.

I went to a big firm out of law school, intending to stay there for no more than 3 years and then shift to something more sane. I was there for 7.5 years, left less than a year before I was up for junior partner, and only did so because I had to go see about a girl (now my wife) who was moving across the country to go to grad school. Then I spent 3+ years in-house; then helped start a small firm with my old boss from my old firm, who is now my partner. Work/life balance now is about as good as it has ever been, but I'm still at the mercy of clients all the time, and it's frightening to be the boss with nobody to pass the buck up to.

I worked hard at the big firm, though not nearly as hard as some. I trained pretty hard for tris at that time too - I enjoyed it and it was a necessary stress reliever. I didn't do much besides work and train though. I still train a fair bit, don't race much anymore, but that's a choice rather than a necessity.

Good stories of big firm work/life: I worked with extremely bright people, both within the firm and as clients. I had 2 outstanding mentors who took the time to teach me how to be an excellent lawyer but also a good person. People bash the Ivy Leagues/East Coast elites a lot in this forum, and sometimes with good reason, but I will say some that some of the smartest people I've ever met came out of Harvard and MIT - incandescently brilliant minds. I represented Nobel Prize winners and helped then do technology deals, then watched the Internet and medical technology change because of the transactions we did. I learned that even junior associates can make big impacts in the right circumstances. I pulled an all-nighter and then drank coffee with a billionaire and an ambassador while we watched the sun rise over Boston Harbor from 35 stories up in a Master of the Universe conference room, and at the end they clapped me on the shoulder and said 'good job'.

Bad stories of big firm work/life: I got dumped by 2 girlfriends in large part because work demands made me a ghost of a romantic partner, and I was stressed out and exhausted even when I was around. I got stress hives working monster deals with silly hours where I was terrified of fucking up transactions worth many millions of dollars because i didn't really know what I was doing sometimes. I have taken calls on Thanksgiving, Christmas and half an hour before the funeral of a good friend when I should have been comforting the friend's mother. I sat in that same Master of the Universe conference room noted above and listened to 6 lawyers argue for 45 minutes trying to find a way to structure an M&A deal in a way that would allow both buyer and seller to avoid having to provide health coverage for an employee with terminal cancer. I billed 15 hours the day of that conference call, woke up the next morning and had a vodka tonic in the shower before going to work because I was ashamed to be part of that transaction.

In-House and helping run my own firm: It's better and balance is easier to achieve (or at least get close to). Neither could have happened without doing the time in the big firm at the outset of my career.

Suggestions: If you manage to get a big firm job, don't get addicted to the money. If you get a small firm job, don't let them work you to death for short money. Regardless of what job you get, don't let your job define who you are. My experience has been that a stint at a big firm can be a good education and build a valuable professional network, but unless you absolutely live and breathe the job, you should leave before it consumes you (drinking vodka during your morning shower is a bad sign). The happiest lawyers I know are either in-house or have gone to smaller firms after a stint in the majors, but in both of those cases, you usually have to have done some time in the trenches first. And keep exercising no matter what - it will keep you sane, your waistline reasonable, and help you sleep at night.

I just wanted to re-up this.

Years after your post, I have to thank you for your time and sincerity.

I ended up doing "well." (That's subjective.) Ended up summering at a big-ish regional firm in the southeast. I've never worked so hard. Granted in was only ten weeks, but I was at the office seven days a week for the first six weeks of my time there. As a summer, I "billed" over 12 overs a few days and routinely was the first one in the office and by far the last to leave.

I was certain that my diligence and dedication would land me the coveted offer at the end of summer.

Well, fast forward to October when I received word that the firm was downsizing and completely blew their anticipated need for new associates. (Fun fact: they no longer participate in summer associate programs.) So I was left out to dry, after what I thought was a sure thing. What did I do?

I packed up my belongings and drove 1,800 miles to Colorado to spend my last semester at a county attorney's office. I liked it so much out here, I took (and passed) the Colorado bar and scored a clerking position in a felony trial court with three judges. (They're fantastic people, but I've realized that I much prefer doing deals/transactional work than litigating.)

I'm now presented with whether I should try and do the impossible: hustle and network my way into a bigger firm or find a small real estate law firm that would be a little more low key (which isn't a sure-thing at all). I'm finally seeing that getting no-offered was probably the best thing that has ever happened to me, as it provided justification to move to Colorado, but that "need" to do my stint in the big leagues still remains.

Nevertheless, I've remembered your post after these few years and your few anecdotes are incredible. So, thanks.

Instagram | floathammerholdon
Quote Reply
Re: LR attorneys: How's that work/life balance? (upcoming OCI) [cloy] [ In reply to ]
Quote | Reply
I realize you rebooted an old thread.
I have a buddy who is a lawyer. We first became friends when he was in his early 40s. At that time, he was in a small firm and I did not know him to put in long hours. He did place in Ultraman, did well in the Leadville ultra race and a similar mtb race.
Shortly after I met him he started his own one man shop. Now he was taking a couple weeks to hike in South America, buy a 2nd home in Colorado and just enjoy life.
By his early 50s, he was basically retired.
With a couple other lawyer friends who seem to have a balance, the trend I notice is they have their own small firms.
Quote Reply
Re: LR attorneys: How's that work/life balance? (upcoming OCI) [cloy] [ In reply to ]
Quote | Reply
i've enjoyed reading this thread. i've got ten years at one firm in a smallish town. In my experience, there's as much money available as anyone is willing to work, but i've seen many law friends underestimate having a family and how that impacts work/how work impacts having a family. firm cultures are vastly different, but it is really tough to know what an individual firm's culture is (especially at smaller law) because there is no transparency and few alumni to pick their brains. good luck.
Quote Reply
Re: LR attorneys: How's that work/life balance? (upcoming OCI) [cloy] [ In reply to ]
Quote | Reply
I don't know what OCI is, but congrats on finishing your first year.

Proud member of Fishtwitch and the ST Grammar Police
disclaimer: PhD not MD
Quote Reply
Re: LR attorneys: How's that work/life balance? (upcoming OCI) [cloy] [ In reply to ]
Quote | Reply
I'm glad to hear that you have landed on your feet - and that you've chosen to see the no-offer fiasco as a good thing, when some would be tempted to see it as life unfairly dumping on them. In law as in life generally, I think the attitude you bring to a tough situation is often more important than the facts of the situation itself.

I went to school in the Midwest and moved the 1000 miles to Boston after getting an offer at the big firm where I summered. 4 months after I got there, 10 partners quit in a weekend after they got poached by a NY firm, and my firm of 300-ish lawyers imploded and dissolved its partnership shortly thereafter. At the time I was pretty sure I was screwed professionally. Ended up getting pulled along with some lawyers jumping from the sinking ship into the firm where I spend 7+ years, which set me on the path I'm on now. Life is funny sometimes.

Be well, counselor.
Quote Reply
Re: LR attorneys: How's that work/life balance? (upcoming OCI) [wimsey] [ In reply to ]
Quote | Reply
Doesn't anybody do small town law any more? Real estate, wills, some litigation. My lawyer has a lucrative practice (he told me so) is 66 and for the last 25 years seems to have had work life balance. This past year he was on three three week long vacations that I know about. He says he would give up the practice if some one would take it but nobody will.

Perhaps the real revolutionaries are those that keep their promises.
Quote Reply
Re: LR attorneys: How's that work/life balance? (upcoming OCI) [len] [ In reply to ]
Quote | Reply
Sure, but I think for many lawyers, especially younger ones, it’s not that attractive a proposition.

I think you’re a physician if I remember correctly? I suspect being a small town lawyer is sort of a similar dynamic to being a small town family doc. There’s a need for it, it’s lower stress in a lot of ways, you can make a decent life out of it, but there’s still a huge shortage of people wanting to go that professional route.
Quote Reply
Re: LR attorneys: How's that work/life balance? (upcoming OCI) [wimsey] [ In reply to ]
Quote | Reply
Yes small town doc.

Perhaps the real revolutionaries are those that keep their promises.
Quote Reply
Re: LR attorneys: How's that work/life balance? (upcoming OCI) [cloy] [ In reply to ]
Quote | Reply
Work life balance is completely dependent on who you work for as an associate, whether its big law or not.

I've worked at a mid-size firm (70 attorneys) in a mid-size market my whole career. When I first started, I worked for an old-school corporate/real estate attorney who expected me to be at the office whenever he was at the office - late nights, weekends, etc. Didn't really matter if he was busy or not - he wanted to see me in the office. With a wife and 2 young children, this was unsustainable for me, personally. Fortunately, a few years later a younger partner with too much work on his hands started using me more and more. Finally, I worked for the younger partner exclusively. I was billing way more hours than before, upwards of 2,400 a year, but the younger partner (who had kids of his own) didn't care when and where my work got done. I started getting up very early at home and getting 2 hours of billing before the kids got up, etc. Some late nights at home as well, early mornings on weekends, whatever it took, but always at home except during normal, weekday business hours. Changed my life. Helped me make partner because of my hours, but also allowed me to be home for dinner, go to kids' sporting events, church, etc.

Be very careful what specific individual partners you work for - talk to the associates who work for them now and see how they operate.

Good luck

Freedom just around the corner for you. But with the truth so far off, what good will it do?
Quote Reply
Re: LR attorneys: How's that work/life balance? (upcoming OCI) [len] [ In reply to ]
Quote | Reply
len -- that is exactly my practice. small town law practice. i'm not billing at $800 per hour, but do have a fairly good balance. i don't bill 2000 per year. i'm not sure i have ever billed over 1500 per year. i also don't make $750k per year.
Quote Reply
Re: LR attorneys: How's that work/life balance? (upcoming OCI) [wdrhoads] [ In reply to ]
Quote | Reply
FWIW, we're told (preached) in law school that we should never consider setting up solo. While I understand not going solo fresh out of school, our administrators and professors rammed the idea that small law was going the way of the dodo...

Instagram | floathammerholdon
Quote Reply
Re: LR attorneys: How's that work/life balance? (upcoming OCI) [cloy] [ In reply to ]
Quote | Reply
cloy -- i probably agree on solo until you can develop a niche practice, if that is the goal, but i'm making the distinction between small law and solo. we have appx 12 attorneys. i think the question is whether you are going to represent "corporate america" or small town america -- those are hugely different cultures. one expects a 24 hour turnaround, the other understands you coach the kid's t-ball team three times a week during the spring, etc... just different styles. I do agree about starting out solo though -- there is way too much to learn. i lean on my partners daily for their advice areas that are not my expertise.
Quote Reply