I am apparently in the minority based on the comments in this thread, but I really enjoy being a senior big law associate. Here's a few reasons why: 1) interesting, complex work that is at least sometimes in the news; 2) the expectations are to bill 1950 hours per year, which is about 40 hours per week for 49 weeks (note that billable hours don't include going to the bathroom, eating lunch, practice group meetings, client pitches or development, recruiting, etc..., so it is more than 40 hours a week of what normal people would consider work; it is my understanding that the average associate bills about 1850 per year at our firm); 3) I work from home (and plan to continue working from home 3-4 days per week post-pandemic); 4) I have flexible hours; 5) I really like my colleagues; 6) I got paid close to $400k last year; 7) generous fully paid parental leave.lgs88 wrote: ↑Mon Apr 12, 2021 11:01 pm Hello, all.
I have a first-world problem to share with the Bogleheads.
I'm in my mid-late 20s with a couple years of high school teaching under my belt. I do not lack for money and (with any luck) likely never will. I live below my means, and I want for nothing material. I do not have a family of my own, but I'd like to start one in the next five years or so. I am good at my job, and my students frequently ask me why I'm in such a good mood. Why wouldn't I be? I love my job. Sure, it's got its drawbacks -- grading is a bore, I'm not paid what I'm worth, and it could be more intellectually stimulating -- but the kids keep me young, and there are no politics, and the hours are such that I can be deeply and satisfyingly involved in the community outside of work. I am a respected member of my community.
But I have a serious interest in the law, so this past year I applied for law school. I got into one of the vaunted ones -- just a couple slots below the ones the Supreme Court justices come from. I'd have to pay full freight, but I can afford it and it wouldn't change my financial trajectory much. I find the law intellectually fascinating, and I love teaching it to high school students. I read the course descriptions and salivate. I think I'd enjoy the experience of an intense intellectual experience amidst high-performing peers, a la Scott Turow's book One L, and I expect I'd have excellent job opportunities after those three years.
The catch is that I don't particularly want to be a lawyer. My friends in Biglaw describe work that, while well-compensated, is an intellectual wasteland devoid of meaning. They don't get much out of their lives outside of the office either, because they're so busy at work. It's hard on their relationships. I'd graduate right around when I'd want to start a family, and I worry about being unavailable for those years. Moreover, the internet is full of lawyers griping about how much they hate their lives.
So, my question for you lawyers out there: do you have unalloyed good things to say about the profession? Have you found a niche that allows you to be well-compensated and intellectually stimulated while having a life outside of work? Have you been able to prioritize your family? How did you find this niche, and how long did it take you to get there?
Thanks very much to the Bogleheads for their take on this topic.
Downsides: 1) The hours are unpredictable, which means sometimes I bill 10 hours on a Saturday, and other times (like at present), I have little to do on a Tuesday, and it is tough to know more than a few days in advance which it will be; 2) there are periods of high stress to meet deadlines; 3) depending on the case, the consequences for the client can be severe, which is also stressful; 4) it is hard to fully disengage, so I'm always thinking about my cases, and frequently need to work at night unexpectedly. All in all, though, the positives far outweigh the negatives, at least for me.
I have a theory that a lot of the burnout at law firms has to do with people that have been grinding hard for a very long time prior to joining the firm, and by the time they get to the firm, they are already about at the end of their rope. Think about a person who was over-extended with extracurriculars in high school, pulled a lot of all nighters in college, was on law review and moot court and gets good grades in law school. By the time they get to the firm some of these people have been grinding hard for more than half their lives without a break. People that took time off, have families, traveled, have other hobbies, etc... seem to stick around longer, and enjoy themselves more. That's anecdotal, obviously, but it seems to hold up.
In terms of your specific situation, you seem pretty happy as a teacher. And as others have pointed out, it probably isn't worth taking out the debt and dedicating years of your life to the law unless it is something you really want to do. That being said, practicing law is nothing like what I expected, and I had only a vague sense of what it meant to be a lawyer until I actually got out of law school. I knew nothing about my practice areas (antitrust and white collar) before going to law school, and it wasn't until I'd been at the firm a while before I found my niche.
Feel free to PM me if you'd like to discuss further.