Celebrating 10 years! 2007-2017

"paying your dues"

(NC perspective here) I love being told that part of bein jdcumlaude03/08/18
There is some truth to it: you aren’t handling federal tri khazaddum03/08/18
Paying your dues means: I am gonna screw you over on pay tod triplesix03/08/18
Paying your dues means some boomer is about to piss on your isthisit03/08/18
Well, I find the comment both true and insulting. I know of qdllc03/08/18
After I passed the bar, my mother told me to apply for a job fettywap03/08/18
I wouldn't consider doc review or selling suits to be paying 3lol03/08/18
Perhaps this was once true, but nowadays it appears that you onehell03/08/18
It's not exactly that illusory. There is merit to being a g jeffm03/08/18
This is an excellent response. I have a qualifier though. wearyattorney03/09/18
I absolutely agree. There was zero talk about starting your mtbislife03/11/18
I think it really depends on the context. I've been "payi thirdtierlaw03/08/18
Actually, for a lot of people these days it means much more onehell03/08/18
180 triplesix03/08/18
I heard this a lot in my pre-law field. It was never profess loser1203/08/18
Yeah it's definitely a favorite phrase of shady strip mall l onehell03/08/18
The problem is not so much paying dues as it is who you're p loser1203/08/18
Yeah, but you guys only focus on the cheap-ass employer. jeffm03/08/18
The game is the game but the older geezers are the ones who triplesix03/08/18
The issue is always money. No doubt. jeffm03/08/18
The pay your dues bs is the bs we got from our parents'gener boomeresq03/08/18
This is it. When you are a newbie and do t know anything, i dupednontraditional03/11/18
The more I think of it, “paying your dues” for most youn khazaddum03/09/18
75 in Nashville to a start sounds pretty sweet. I wouldn’t physicssezno03/09/18
Its not. They leave for lower paying, less stressful jobs. khazaddum03/09/18
Haha... 75k for 60 hour weeks? triplesix03/09/18
Nashville is nowhere near D.C. in cost. My 2/2 condo with ma khazaddum03/09/18
Issue ain't money, issue is working like a dog. Unless y triplesix03/09/18
These folks were in serious debt. I am over 100k annually no khazaddum03/09/18
"If I had a family there is no way I’d be here." Don't a jeffm03/09/18
No one at my paygrade or higher has a traditional family. Mo khazaddum03/11/18
I think the problem with "paying your dues" lies largely wit 2breedbares03/09/18
Either born into a family firm, or, a brainiac. Everyon aknas03/09/18
You pay your dues even when you are your own boss. Clients, dakotalaw03/10/18
The phrase "paying your dues" implies that there is some pay patenttrollnj03/11/18
Lol yup. These "dues," much like your student loans, tend to onehell03/12/18

jdcumlaude (Mar 8, 2018 - 11:54 am)

(NC perspective here)

I love being told that part of being a young attorney is "paying your dues"...especially when the people telling me this are either not in the legal field, or more often, do not understand what this means in 2018.

For a boomer attorney, paying your dues meant taking a law paying job at a public defenders office or as a DA....Now these jobs are coveted in my area.

Paying your dues, for many young attorneys means selling suits at Jos A. Bank. Other are praying that the doc review does not dry up before the holidays. Still others are going into anther career after taking on a 6 figure loan debt.

Has anyone else actually confronted individuals who use this very poor choice of words? When I have had the opportunity the response is usually disbelief. I have even had some accuse me of simply not telling the truth about the situation.

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khazaddum (Mar 8, 2018 - 12:05 pm)

There is some truth to it: you aren’t handling federal trials as a newbie.


You are correct though. LegalZoom, Google Scholar, and the ease of access to the Internet have brought the value of a lawyer in rote matters down substantially.

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triplesix (Mar 8, 2018 - 12:13 pm)

Paying your dues means: I am gonna screw you over on pay today, you got no career anyway.

People with real jobs don't hear stupid crap like this and if they do, they get another job.

When a Boomer says this, I tell them to shut up. And watch them turn red. Southern caacks, get real butthurt when they don't get the "respect" they deserve haha

The gloves are off, and anyone with self respect should read between the lines.

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isthisit (Mar 8, 2018 - 12:30 pm)

Paying your dues means some boomer is about to piss on your shoes and tell you it's raining.

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qdllc (Mar 8, 2018 - 12:37 pm)

Well, I find the comment both true and insulting. I know of many people who didn’t start at the bottom of the barrel. They didn’t make bank, but they received a pay package commensurate to their education, training and work they would have to perform. In large, it was more about being in the right place at the right time, but that it happens doesn’t mean one is automatically wrong to have expectations when entering a field of work.

I remember right out of law school expecting to make $25K annual in most any position requiring a college degree. Some thought I was asking to “start at the top,” but I disagree. That figure was a conservative estimate of what I needed to earn to be able to support myself on a modest budget and lifestyle AND be on track for repaying my student loans. Why should any skilled worker expect to make no more than the unskilled workers around them in a job that sought them out for their skill set?

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fettywap (Mar 8, 2018 - 1:13 pm)

After I passed the bar, my mother told me to apply for a job in the file room of a law firm, because I had to pay my dues. When I found a lawyer job, she called me a token woman and said the lawyer only hired me because he was trying to meet a quota. My first job I made $28,000, which was probably lower than anyone else I graduated with. She acted like I was being paid a king's ransom.

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3lol (Mar 8, 2018 - 1:21 pm)

I wouldn't consider doc review or selling suits to be paying one's dues, that's just a dead end for a stillborn career unless you manage to sell a suit to a biglaw attorney that admires your moxy, or bootstrap your way from the doc review dungeon to an associate position.

If you work at a garbage firm for a year or two before getting enough experience to move to a less-awful firm, I would consider that to be paying your dues.

However, in boomer-speak, "paying your dues" typically required the outdated assumption that you would start at a job and stay for a long enough time to substantially work your way up. Except in some circumstances, this model doesn't exist any more because human capital is cheap and mobility within an organization is limited. It's commonly accepted now, like in the example above, that you will gain enough experience to leave and go somewhere else. You won't ever make partner in the garbagelaw firm.

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onehell (Mar 8, 2018 - 1:27 pm)

Perhaps this was once true, but nowadays it appears that your "payment" doesn't even cover the interest on this metaphorical debt. No one works their way up from the mail room or whatever.

We live in a caste system, with limited exceptions for people with savant-like standardized test-taking ability and who serve as anecdotes that enable us to pretend we live in a meritocracy. The rest of us move up or down a notch or two, but overall end up relatively close to wherever they started out.

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jeffm (Mar 8, 2018 - 1:35 pm)

It's not exactly that illusory. There is merit to being a good lawyer.

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wearyattorney (Mar 9, 2018 - 2:30 pm)

This is an excellent response. I have a qualifier though.

The problem is we let them rob us of the greatest opportunities provided to lower class people in the history of the world, in exchange for a chance to “compete” in areas that are traditionally reserved for the children of the well off.

However, in America, you could surpass these folks doing the job no one wants to do and doing it well, eg owning your own business. These people that you say come from wealthier backgrounds that have an advantage over us, if you probe the matter, you’ll find their parents were business owners and make much more than most white collar professionals of any type. America was and never will be a pure meritocracy when anyone can succeed at anything, rather it’s a place where anyone can succeed provided they make correct decisions.

90 percent of the rich kids at my law school were not from families with lawyers, their parents owned simple sounding bussinesses that made a fortune.

The education game is a con, and with respect to the education game, it is mostly a caste system, where the outliers you label “savants” are used as ego boosts for the privileged. I’m not successful because my father owns fifty buildings in Pittsburgh, I’m successful because I went to UPenn, see my classmate Frank Choi, he didn’t come from money and he makes 300k a year in Big law.

But the harsh truth is we didn’t need to play this game so the children of the rich could use use as a conduit for ego stroking and that law professors could earn a comfortable living. We are complicit in the con. Right now, there’s a 22 year old tradesmen our there that has no student loans who is going to own his own business and is going to make much more than most of the people who went to law school, including the ones from money.

People got this fifty years ago, today liberals have convinced their side of the aisle that you can’t succeed unless you come from the right caste, where Republicans say anyone can do anything and succeed because this is a way pure meritocracy. Both lines are BS. You play with what you got and there is still a chance to succeed, this doesn’t mean you get more than the guy two pegs up the latter because you are smarter and/or work harder.

You need to take the path less traveled by to succeed.

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mtbislife (Mar 11, 2018 - 1:34 pm)

I absolutely agree. There was zero talk about starting your own business when I was in high school. Everyone was constantly being told they all need to go to directional state U or the local community college regardless of their skills or interests.

A few months ago I was talking to someone who clears 100k a year sharpening scissors for salons and doing uber part time, as you say, simple businesses that few people would think of.

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thirdtierlaw (Mar 8, 2018 - 1:51 pm)

I think it really depends on the context.

I've been "paying my dues" the past few years at my law firm. I.e. my boss will ask me to draft him a motion to dismiss and then go argue it on his behalf because he'd prefer to have client meetings. Or my first few trials were low-level misdemeanors while my boss was handling sex-assaults and murders.
I'm also "paying my dues" in the sense of retaining clients in low assets divorces. Unlike my other boss who is constantly getting retained to handle million dollar+ estate divorces, nobody was going to hire me to handle those matters if I didn't have a few contested divorces under my belt. I don't get offended when people refer to those two things as paying my dues.

But I can see it being offensive in the context of "take this job well below market rate to 'pay your due.'"

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onehell (Mar 8, 2018 - 1:55 pm)

Actually, for a lot of people these days it means much more than just below market rate. It means being (mis)classified as an independent contractor so you can be paid below minimum wage, or as an intern so you don't get paid at all.

Funny how all this bootstrapping and "pay your dues" / "world owes you nothing" stuff is supposed to mean anyone can succeed if you just work hard enough. But when paying your dues means working for free, it actually ensures the exact opposite of a meritocracy. One must come from some level of privilege to be able to do such a thing.

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triplesix (Mar 8, 2018 - 2:51 pm)

180

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loser12 (Mar 8, 2018 - 3:59 pm)

I heard this a lot in my pre-law field. It was never professionals who'd say this, but fringe people who would not pay you for internships and had you essentially replace secretaries and most salaried positions.

In law, paying dues means doing the low level due diligence work that nobody likes while making a decent salary. If you're being paid like crap, that's not paying your dues. That's being taken advantage of.

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onehell (Mar 8, 2018 - 4:46 pm)

Yeah it's definitely a favorite phrase of shady strip mall lawyers who mine the local law schools for starry-eyed kids with a free Westlaw password. Anyone who pushes back they'll just call an "entitled millennial" who "thinks the world owes them something" and is "unwilling to pay their dues."

It's like "No asshat. The world doesn't owe me something. You owe me something. Because I work for you. I'm not an intern, because this is clearly for your benefit, not my education. I'm not an independent contractor because I don't 'independently' decide when to show up. And you're not a charity, so I can't be a volunteer."

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loser12 (Mar 8, 2018 - 5:13 pm)

The problem is not so much paying dues as it is who you're paying them to. If it was work for free, and if you prove yourself, we'll pay you a good salary, then I get it. More often, it's work for free or next to nothing, and if you do good work, you'll be financially sunk enough from having worked for free that we can get away with paying you 15/hour.

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jeffm (Mar 8, 2018 - 5:54 pm)

Yeah, but you guys only focus on the cheap-ass employer.

On the one-hand, you say how tough the profession is. "Tough. Tough. Tough. Can't make a living for myself." On the other hand, you expect these guys, who are in your same profession, to pay a higher salary/wage. That presupposes quite a lot, right out of the starting gate. It could be that if they had to pay more, they'd simply do without. Maybe they can't afford it. Or maybe, they have to choose between a Beemer and an associate, and at that price, they'd rather have the Beemer. That's not their "fault." They are not charities.

Bottom line: If you take a bad job, it just might be your own fault. If you got screwed by the law school scam, that's not the employer's fault, either. That's just the circumstance that both of you probably face.

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triplesix (Mar 8, 2018 - 5:58 pm)

The game is the game but the older geezers are the ones who don't understand how the cookie crumbles with idiotic statements like "pay your dues" or "can't get qualified candidate" memes...

The issue is not dues or a qualified candidate, the issue is money. They get bent out of shape when they get called on it because their egos get bruised talking money.

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jeffm (Mar 8, 2018 - 6:24 pm)

The issue is always money. No doubt.

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boomeresq (Mar 8, 2018 - 7:09 pm)

The pay your dues bs is the bs we got from our parents'generation, the greatest generation. You have to realise that they went through the great depression and WWII and that allowed them, they thought to control and boss us around. Law and medicine were considered the ultimate profession and as such in order to move up the ladder you started at the bottom and worked you way up to success, income and respect, not to mention a permanent job with the end game of 50 years,a gold watch and a decent retirement. Poof that is now gone. The game has changed and generally the change is for the worse.

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dupednontraditional (Mar 11, 2018 - 3:00 pm)

This is it. When you are a newbie and do t know anything, it makes sense to pay your dues for a while. Problem is, the goal posts keep getting moved of late, and you’ve got 45yrs+ people still “paying their dues” for reasons that remain unclear.

Well, besides the screwing people for money part...

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khazaddum (Mar 9, 2018 - 5:48 am)

The more I think of it, “paying your dues” for most young lawyers I come across is akin to “cashing out.”

The firm I work at has long hours but we pay newbies about $75,000 starting in Nashville. The age gap between the 4 most experienced attorneys is 15 years... 33 youngest, 48 oldest. Maybe 20% of our hires go on to another attorney position.

This says about all you need to know regarding what these lawyers do after their last student loan is paid.

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physicssezno (Mar 9, 2018 - 11:47 am)

75 in Nashville to a start sounds pretty sweet. I wouldn’t say that’s chump change.

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khazaddum (Mar 9, 2018 - 11:48 am)

Its not. They leave for lower paying, less stressful jobs.

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triplesix (Mar 9, 2018 - 11:50 am)

Haha... 75k for 60 hour weeks?

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khazaddum (Mar 9, 2018 - 12:08 pm)

Nashville is nowhere near D.C. in cost. My 2/2 condo with master-sized bedrooms is $1,100/mo. Its unnecessarily big and a 8 minute walk from work. I own a car and parking is free everywhere but the courthouse.

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triplesix (Mar 9, 2018 - 12:14 pm)

Issue ain't money, issue is working like a dog.

Unless you own the business or are in serious debt working OT is for suckers. I got a life to live.

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khazaddum (Mar 9, 2018 - 1:21 pm)

These folks were in serious debt. I am over 100k annually now with bonuses. The newbies all leave for less chaotic jobs. I don’t blame them. If I had a family there is no way I’d be here.

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jeffm (Mar 9, 2018 - 3:25 pm)

"If I had a family there is no way I’d be here." Don't a lot of people stay there because they have families to support?

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khazaddum (Mar 11, 2018 - 3:44 pm)

No one at my paygrade or higher has a traditional family. Most are paying child support and see the kids whenever we get free weekends, or they paid the child support.

One of the founders is still married. That is it.

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2breedbares (Mar 9, 2018 - 3:56 pm)

I think the problem with "paying your dues" lies largely with the messenger but not the message. Anyone who "paid their dues" in the glory years has no idea what it takes to start from the bottom and move up in the legal profession nowadays. You can't just work hard and progress. There is a degree of cunning you have to have nowadays to recognize when you're in the right or wrong situation, and the latter is much more common.

But I do agree that if you haven't done a lot of true legal work at an acceptable level, you shouldn't expect true legal pay. I graduated in 2010 after being no offered from my summer firm and laid off from my first job. I had to move down the coast to land my first litigation job, which led to another, and another, and another before ending up where I am (six figure govt gig). There is something to be said about learning to be a good lawyer. And you have to have the mindset of, "the demand for lawyers is always decreasing, but a great lawyer will have a job." The bar is unfortunately much higher now, but that's just the "progress" of humanity I suppose.

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aknas (Mar 9, 2018 - 6:22 pm)

Either born into a family firm, or, a brainiac.


Everyone else should network and stop whining......

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dakotalaw (Mar 10, 2018 - 11:28 am)

You pay your dues even when you are your own boss. Clients, opposing counsel, and judges hold your age against you. I switched from contacts to glasses and started dressing better. I’d grow a beard if I was in a more progressive place.

In most level cases in state court in my area, the law is nearly irrelevant. The attorneys reputation and age matter a great deal.

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patenttrollnj (Mar 11, 2018 - 5:44 pm)

The phrase "paying your dues" implies that there is some payoff at some point.

I certainly don't think pursuing a career in law is worth it for most of us. Should have paid my dues elsewhere.

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onehell (Mar 12, 2018 - 5:27 pm)

Lol yup. These "dues," much like your student loans, tend to negative-amortize nowadays.

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