Celebrating 10 years! 2007-2017

Less than five years in and thinking of leaving the legal profession

Before I got my license I worked as a paralegal at a firm th trickydick01/29/18
How many hours did you have to bill? junkwired01/29/18
Exactly zero. I’ve been in the trenches of plaintiff’s s trickydick01/29/18
It only took me one year of being a penniless solo to leave flyer1401/29/18
Titcr. Even with "booming trump economy" and 20% decrease in triplesix01/29/18
I’m definitely thinking in the long term. The legal profes trickydick01/30/18
Stand around the courthouse. Look at the guy who's 65 and wa flyer1401/30/18
Tricky, there's got to be a plaintiff's firm somewhere in LA guyingorillasuit01/29/18
I agree.I think he is in a prime position to move up, maybe dopesmokeresquire01/29/18
To what end? To get anywhere decent in this business I need trickydick01/29/18
" ... the courthouses are packed with walking, talking cauti shitlawsf01/29/18
You can also find too many 60 year olds at Walmart or Home D trijocker01/29/18
The oldster that secured a Tier 1 pension and has a six figu wearyattorney01/30/18
OP, need more information? What other skills can you present nighthawk01/29/18
I used to do work in the CIA’s counter-intelligence progra trickydick01/30/18
What is your longterm goals, other than models and bottles? dopesmokeresquire01/29/18
I don’t want to answer to a supervising authority. I want trickydick01/30/18
It actually doesn't take that much. My husband is the sole i dopesmokeresquire01/31/18
Hey Tricky, can you find another plaintiff's firm in your ar trijocker01/29/18
I'm not sure how much PI lends itself to interactions with t jorgedeclaro01/29/18
Something to consider: I left law and now work in defense co flyer1401/29/18
There are certainly things you could do, but it sounds like wolfman01/29/18
I concede I don't know the market in your state, but in my f tcpaul01/29/18
Trickydick has marketable experience and definitely has opti greenhorn01/29/18
This. I’m not a recent law school grad sweating over wh trickydick01/29/18
As someone who represents a variety of business owners in a greenhorn01/29/18
Retired partner emeritus here. I'd like to add something ab lifeofleisure01/30/18
Stay until you have five and a half years of experience and passportfan301/29/18
Tricky. You know my email. If you want to talk give me a hol ambulancechaser201301/29/18
Tricky, don’t be so hard on yourself. My old boss who ran ambulancechaser201301/30/18
It all boils down to ROI of a law career. Yes. You can make greenhorn01/30/18
And, yes. Never underestimate luck when it comes to success greenhorn01/30/18
Not luck. Grit, determination, and most important of all, g wearyattorney01/31/18

trickydick (Jan 29, 2018 - 1:30 pm)

Before I got my license I worked as a paralegal at a firm that was a PI mill but handled some other cases. After I got my license, I was hired on as an associate.

Very early on I understood that there was a high turn over rate among associates in the firm for a reason. The starting salary was in the $50k-$60k range. If you did a good job, you’d get annual raises between $5k and $10k. Virtually everyone capped out after five years at about $80k and after that there are no more raises and you have to rely on a bonus structure to increase your annual earnings.

It’s understood that there’s really no partnership track so everyone has to make a decision after they cap out: go work for another firm, switch to defense work, or go solo...or get out of law entirely.

Well, I’ve been an associate for less than five years, I’ve basically capped out, and I’m seriously thinking of getting out. But I’m not sure where to start.

The only attorneys I know who got out went to do government work (which is its own kind of sand trap depending on what level of government you work for) or start their own businesses. I’ve yet to hear of an attorney in sh*tlaw transitioning out to a position as an executive at IBM.

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junkwired (Jan 29, 2018 - 1:50 pm)

How many hours did you have to bill?

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trickydick (Jan 29, 2018 - 2:42 pm)

Exactly zero. I’ve been in the trenches of plaintiff’s side work. Muddier and deadlier than the trenches of insurance defense, but in my estimation with much less of the pogue sh*t that goes on in the world of ID.

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flyer14 (Jan 29, 2018 - 1:41 pm)

It only took me one year of being a penniless solo to leave law entirely. Leaving the law is a credited option given the continually depressed state of the legal job market, particularly if you're not in a coastal metro area.

Credited responses include inhouse positions, compliance, and government (some states are more credited than others but feds and some municipal jobs are a good way to go).

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triplesix (Jan 29, 2018 - 1:50 pm)

Titcr. Even with "booming trump economy" and 20% decrease in annual cattle graduation rate, the legal job market is marginally better than it was in 2013.

The economy is due for a correction in a few years, I can already see all sorts of tricks to squeeze the wage slave even harder as soon as they get a chance.

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trickydick (Jan 30, 2018 - 2:29 pm)

I’m definitely thinking in the long term. The legal profession is a bad place to find yourself in if you’re in your 60’s or older unless you have an equity stake in a successful firm. How much worse will it be when I’m that age?

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flyer14 (Jan 30, 2018 - 3:24 pm)

Stand around the courthouse. Look at the guy who's 65 and walks with a limp. The suit fit about 15 years ago (and when the guy was 30 pounds lighter). Pay attention closely to his demeanor, gait, and manner of conduct.

Apart from being overweight and in poor health, he's probably divorced due to his family falling apart because of too many Sundays at the office. Back in 1997, the divorce lawyer helped him keep the house, but he paid child support for years and could never save a lot of money ever again.

Trying to bounce back after the kids are finally 18, the lawyer's second relationship with a single mother 20 years his junior doesn't go well either and in 2010, the palimony lawyer emptied his IRA in order to make the second woman go away.

Realizing he will never make partner at his garbagelaw firm after 30 years, he strikes out as a solo on his own. Business is so-so, but he works long hours even at retirement age just to survive since social security isn't until 67.

Even after paying double FICA taxes as a solo it still won't be enough to survive. So he keeps working.

That's the future of lawyers who don't make partner.

***

Or you can lateral to government. Keep your 80k salary, accept a 3% COLA and step raise annually, be happy with your middle class existence, go home at 4:00 PM every day, and retire at 61 with a pension.

That way you still have your evenings and weekends to do things other than work.

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guyingorillasuit (Jan 29, 2018 - 1:48 pm)

Tricky, there's got to be a plaintiff's firm somewhere in LA who is looking for an associate with 3-5 years of experience.

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dopesmokeresquire (Jan 29, 2018 - 2:35 pm)

I agree.I think he is in a prime position to move up, maybe to a different practice area, but he can at least take a case and run with it instead of crapping his pants like a newbie. THat's worth something.

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trickydick (Jan 29, 2018 - 2:46 pm)

To what end? To get anywhere decent in this business I need to make partner somewhere or start up my own (lucrative) solo practice. I’ve seen too many 60+ year old attorneys who never made a go of either path and were instead doing associate or contract level work in the courthouses, hacking their guts up or hobbling along on busted backs or knees telling stories of their failed efforts to run their own firm. Not sure if there are any better options outside of law, but the courthouses are packed with walking, talking cautionary tales.

Ah, I don’t know. Maybe I’m just blowing off some steam. Maybe another $10k or $20k a year will change my outlook. Maybe I should just jump ship to another firm.

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shitlawsf (Jan 29, 2018 - 4:38 pm)

" ... the courthouses are packed with walking, talking cautionary tales."

Yep. But they are cautionary tales for those who haven't yet gone to law school. Once you've gone, you're married to it.

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trijocker (Jan 29, 2018 - 5:14 pm)

You can also find too many 60 year olds at Walmart or Home Depot
Hobbling along with busted backs fetching wood for youngsters
Who has a better life? The oldsters in the courthouse or the oldsters stuck working in retail while living in a camper or their car as they can no longer afford a home? Life isn't always so rosy.

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wearyattorney (Jan 30, 2018 - 2:37 am)

The oldster that secured a Tier 1 pension and has a six figure retirement plan with rock solid cost of living raises annually has the better life. The oldster at the courthouse and the oldster in Home Depot pay his pension too. Darwinism at work.

By comparison, the youngster that foregoes student loans for a tier 10 pension will also be better off than the youngster who so attempts as the above oldsters (unless the attempting youngster comes from money). Individuals that view life as a dichotomy between working at Home Depot or incurring a few hundred k of debt to hack it out at the courthouse because all blue collar and municipal work is bad and unprestigious will similarly have to pay for more mature-minded youngsters that retire at 45 with a pension. Also, both sets of private slave minions can enjoy the benefit of paying those pensions while competing against the third world (both as imported and by outsourcing) as they pay that vig.

When you have a labor surplus, the answer is polticial protection. The guy at Home Depot can’t complain. The guy at the courthouse can’t complain. The Chicago call dispatcher tha makes 90k a year with a pension can complain. The California fireman raking in 400k can complain. If you don’t want problems, be on the side that can complain, until there’s a labor shortage, then complaining doesn’t matter and skills matter.

Survival of the fittest, those that chose wisely live well, and those that don’t will live badly. When the consensus is usually to do X, ie go to college, then do Y. Visa Versa.

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nighthawk (Jan 29, 2018 - 2:20 pm)

OP, need more information? What other skills can you present to an employer? Are you willing to get trained in a different area?

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trickydick (Jan 30, 2018 - 3:21 pm)

I used to do work in the CIA’s counter-intelligence program identifying trained Russian prostitutes attempting to obtain information from U.S. officials or to compromise them for the purposes of extortion, the so called “sparrows.”

But seriously, no, I have no special skills whatsoever.

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dopesmokeresquire (Jan 29, 2018 - 2:34 pm)

What is your longterm goals, other than models and bottles? My goal was to never deal with office politics again and let someone else dictate what to do with cases. The source of my greatest unhappiness with law was the other people i worked WITH.

So now I'm my own boss, and it's great. Law sucks still, clients suck, it all sucks, but it's manageable because i only want to quit Law 48% of the time instead of 80% of the time.

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trickydick (Jan 30, 2018 - 3:23 pm)

I don’t want to answer to a supervising authority. I want to make the executive decisions. I guess running my own firm would be ideal...but my god, what it takes to do that...

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dopesmokeresquire (Jan 31, 2018 - 12:29 pm)

It actually doesn't take that much. My husband is the sole independent contractor for a firm. The firm refers work out to him and he keeps 80% of the fee. The firm pays his malpractice insurance and provides an office. He makes his own schedule and has 100% control over the case. In the meantime, he is free to do any other contract work for anyone else.

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trijocker (Jan 29, 2018 - 2:37 pm)

Hey Tricky, can you find another plaintiff's firm in your area to go to?
Or are you just plain burned out?

I don't know what kind of "government work" you are talking about, do you mean when someone posts here SSA JOBS THEY ARE BACK, YEAH and 500 people talk about the job? I think that would be tough to transition to. I once clerked at a PI defense firm while in law school and a few made partner. Others got out after several years like you are, as they could not stand it.

I am not sure what kind of corp work you could get, when I worked at big high tech firms we would get tons of attorneys either DAs or PI defense applying for GC or Contracts Management work, I never saw them get an interview because there was enough people already applying that had tech work experience.

Is there anything else you can do: coding, sit for the CPA exam, start a business, one guy I know became a mortgage broker and he made more money than as a patent attorney, another guy started his own lap dance club with a juice license, but he had lots of law enforcement always after him.
It will be interesting to read the responses you get.

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jorgedeclaro (Jan 29, 2018 - 3:44 pm)

I'm not sure how much PI lends itself to interactions with the rest of the legal community. It seems pretty hit and miss to me. There are some PI firms that I have friends with and see them at local bar events. Most I never see except on billboards.

If I were going to leave my firm, there is only one other place in town I would want to practice. That number would raise to two if a certain attorney in the firm died. Otherwise I'm going solo. PI is tough firm to build as a solo because of how much $$$ need to be spent on marketing.

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flyer14 (Jan 29, 2018 - 2:49 pm)

Something to consider: I left law and now work in defense contracting. I just sent a file over to our legal office for review prior to award. The attorney I sent the file to is the exact same GS pay grade as I am.

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wolfman (Jan 29, 2018 - 2:57 pm)

There are certainly things you could do, but it sounds like you want to both change careers and make lots more money than what you currently make (80k) and I'm not sure how feasible that is unless you start your own (successful) business or acquire an in-demand skill. For example I've applied for a bunch of fed gov jobs to work in immigration enforcement (not as a lawyer) but those would start at GS-9 or GS-11 at most... if I got one and stuck it out and eventually got to something like GS-12 that would get me to a (very low) six-figure salary after quite a few years in a high COL area, but that's hardly models and bottles, and I wouldn't be doing it for the money... what do you want to do that's not law? I don't think "corporate work" is all that realistic for a PI/WC lawyer, unless you bring something to the table I'm not aware of... I'd suggest fed law enforcement to anyone who's young and fit enough, but I seem to remember your saying you'd never want to work in that kind of an environment... hmmm, do you like teeth? Or computers?

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tcpaul (Jan 29, 2018 - 3:19 pm)

I concede I don't know the market in your state, but in my flyover job market, there are a good amount of PI jobs that pay well over $80,000. Some, with a base comp well over that amount and some with a percentage cut of revenue that would put you well over $80,000. I think you just got to network and find them. Maybe schedule some lunches with some other PI firms? I tend to see defense firms advertising their openings while PI firms seems to be more word of mouth where I'm at.

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greenhorn (Jan 29, 2018 - 4:26 pm)

Trickydick has marketable experience and definitely has options in his speciality area of practice. I think he knows that and knows that he can lateral to another firm, hop the fence and go to ID or possibly move into government.

I think his frustration is from the general practice of law. I think he and anybody else who is in this business for a few years realizes that there are other people making the same, if not more money than us attorneys who deal with significantly more stress and bs.

Sometimes the grass is in fact greener, but as with all professions, people who have been doing it all the time get fed up with the bull crap that goes along with it.

At about 5 years out, you come to a crossroads, where you think to yourself “do I stick with this or aggressively start planning my escape.”

Tricky has a few choices, but his dilemma is “do I chuck this career and open a coffee shop, or do I continue and move to another firm, start my own practice, work in ID......etc, etc. Regardless, I think he’ll do well for himself.

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trickydick (Jan 29, 2018 - 5:17 pm)

This.

I’m not a recent law school grad sweating over whether I can make a career in law. At this point, it’s a given that I can.

But do I want to? Not if I can make anything like the same amount of money in a career with less stress and BS. So the question is, can I?

If I knew I could have the same money running a coffee shop, I’d seriously consider doing that.

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greenhorn (Jan 29, 2018 - 5:35 pm)

As someone who represents a variety of business owners in a variety of issues (business litigation, transactional and various personal issues) I’ve come to know and befriend many of my clients. I also know their books and I’m always impressed how Joe Smith started a landscaping business and ya now making X per year. Or how Jane Smith started a dance school for kids and is now making Y per year.

The most successful people started businesses serving a need that I never even knew existed.

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lifeofleisure (Jan 30, 2018 - 1:59 pm)

Retired partner emeritus here. I'd like to add something about the inimitable Charlie Munger.

“Like Warren, I had a considerable passion to get rich. Not because I wanted Ferraris—I wanted the independence. I desperately wanted it. I thought it was undignified to have to send invoices to other people. I don’t know where I got that notion from, but I had it. I had lived way under my income for years, saving money.”
Excerpt From: Roger Lowenstein. “Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist”

A few more observations here:
https://www.cnbc.com/2017/08/15/insights-on-living-a-rich-life-from-buffetts-partner-charlie-munger.html


Charlie Munger had a lot of luck meeting Buffett early on, but he was still in his 30's when that happened. You can get out of law, but it takes that kind of desperate determination and a bit of opportune luck.

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passportfan3 (Jan 29, 2018 - 6:23 pm)

Stay until you have five and a half years of experience and then start applying for Attorney III positions with the California state government.

The jobs start at about $100K, with all the government benefits people dream about.

If I could do it over, I would start with the government at six years out and retire at 55.

Here's some info on the position:

https://jobs.ca.gov/JOBSGEN/9PB08.PDF

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ambulancechaser2013 (Jan 29, 2018 - 8:13 pm)

Tricky. You know my email. If you want to talk give me a holler. I’m in LA like you and did PI WC. I’m staff counsel at a carrier. Love to talk to you.

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ambulancechaser2013 (Jan 30, 2018 - 11:46 am)

Tricky, don’t be so hard on yourself. My old boss who ran a WC mill with a PI side operation was one hell of a businessman. Didn’t know jack about civil procedure and real workers’ comp and didn’t care. He got started in the mid 1990s when the carriers were still settled clear liability rear Enders for triple meds and he had some money to advertise which he spent on the phone book. It was easier then. Does that mean he is smarter than you or me or even a better businessman. Heck no. It means he has better timing. Does the fact that I dated an 8 out of 10 mean I’m a player or have any real game. No it means that woman was just out of a relationship and looking to get with someone.

Find an area of civ lit that makes sense in the 2020s. My advice is marijuana law and still some employment law.

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greenhorn (Jan 30, 2018 - 4:24 pm)

It all boils down to ROI of a law career. Yes. You can make a good living as a lawyer, but at what expense ? At this point, I’m not talking about the cost of tuition, but instead the stress of clients, opposing counsel, various day to day issues, bosses, clerks, title companies etc. This is the “cost” that goes unaccounted for.

Example. You’re the attorney handling the closing of a residential real estate deal. Suppose you represent a builder, you see him getting a check for X about and making approximately Y amount in profit. Then you see a check going to the broker, who makes Z amount. Then checks go to the title company for their charges and they make B amount......all of these people/entities worked less than you and you are getting $1200 or so....far less than anybody else at the closing table.

Yes. There is stress and grief in other fields, there is stress and grief in running a business. But in law you are both running a business and being an attorney and it’s a unique set of stressors. The biggest of which I think comes from knowing that a.) others make the same or more while “doing less.” b.) the fact that clients are mostly disloyal and priceshop at every corner and are looking to blame you for any misfortune c.) dealing with difficult other attorneys who feel that they need to be difficult for difficulties sake.

Personally I enjoy the business aspect of being a solo over the law aspect. But there are others who truly love being a lawyer for being a lawyers sake. God bless those souls.

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greenhorn (Jan 30, 2018 - 5:00 pm)

And, yes. Never underestimate luck when it comes to success in business and succcess in life.

I know a plumber who 20 years ago bought run down brownstones in various parts of Brooklyn. These were run down, public housing type places. He bought them because he couldn’t afford any other type of investment properties. Well fast forward 20 years, rents and property values in that part of Brooklyn are basically work 15 times what he paid for them.

Luck.

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wearyattorney (Jan 31, 2018 - 11:36 am)

Not luck. Grit, determination, and most important of all, going against social convention.

Whether it’s getting that sweet municipal gig everyone laughed about before globalization kicked, buying the buildings in the bad part of town where expansion for yuppies has only one direction to go, or investing in Ethereum at 25 cents, the common theme is going against convention. Markets always punish oversupply and following convention usually leads to oversupply and other problems.

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