Celebrating 10 years! 2007-2017

Success to failure

Last night, I had a phone conversation with a colleague who wallypancake11/09/18
What this guy is saying is that won't take the pay cut to do superttthero11/09/18
That's exactly right. The ways out are endless. Nobody wan jeffm11/09/18
It isn’t weird at all, and this guy’s situation reflect wearyattorney11/09/18
Wearyattorney, your posts in this vein are ridiculous. The v pherc11/10/18
My posts in that vein are absolutely on point when you consi wearyattorney11/10/18
But you're incorrect that the best and the brightest advance thirdtierlaw11/11/18
He pretty much hit on this: “Now, I already know what t billcarson11/11/18
Many big-law attorneys couldn’t hack it as a investment ba pherc11/11/18
I'm just not sure it is accurate. There is a well worn path thirdtierlaw11/11/18
getting into biglaw is a simple path: 1) Get a high GPA a dingbat11/11/18
What you just described proves the point that the person in billcarson11/11/18
couldn't agree more. First week at law school I could alrea dingbat11/11/18
In Illinois, Mass, New York, New Jersey and California, wher wearyattorney11/11/18
stupid is as stupid does. Some people have the talent and dingbat11/11/18
Sorry, vohod, I don't mean it. We love you dingbat11/11/18
No its true. I have been cursed. billcarson11/11/18
Part of talent is understanding the social structure you are wearyattorney11/11/18
So true. I dropped out of law school many years ago and was veryfinejim11/26/18
This doesn't add up...6th year biglaw living at home and onl jd4hire11/09/18
Imaginary conversations often do not add up. wutwutwut11/09/18
reminds me of a friend of mine at a big 4 accounting firm. dingbat11/09/18
OP is a misnomber. "Incredibly lucrative successful 1%e billcarson11/09/18
Update: I worked with Biglaw guy over the weekend on updatin wallypancake11/15/18
This type of behavior is the short-sighted product of no pre jj8212/03/18
jj82, what are you doing now? Did you give up your law licen cranky12/03/18

wallypancake (Nov 9, 2018 - 10:56 am)

Last night, I had a phone conversation with a colleague who is working at a big law firm and has been in the biglaw world for 6 years.

Biglaw guy: I need to get out of this. Too much. My student loans are 75% paid off. I cannot live with my mother anymore. What should I do?

Wally: Good question. Before you jump ship, figure out what you are going to do. Do you want to go in-house?

Biglaw guy: I want out of law permanently. What should I do?

Wally: There are many options. Sell DVDs online, sell vitamins, become an illustrator, open a hair salon, pilates instructor, jewlery designer, hedge fund manager, pharmacy technician, plumber, nuclear radiologist, the list goes on.

Biglaw guy: I need something that works for me.

Wally: Sit down and think about it. You can also try a career counselor who can make suggestions for what to do and give you practical ideas how to transition. I know of one who may be able to help you.

Biglaw guy: What else am I supposed to do? Law School only trained me to be a lawyer.

Wally: First, LS trained you to be a legal theorist. The three or four firms that you've been at trained you to be a lawyer. Second, had you done architecture then you would have been trained to be an architect and nothing else. If you have the internal resources to last in biglaw for 6 years then you can figure out what is next.

Biglaw: But what can I do? I am stuck being a lawyer but do not want to be a lawyer.

Wally: You're not stuck. You just need a way to maneuver into the next phase.

Biglaw: Then what should I do?

Wally: I already told you. If you quit now, you can try to get in with another firm or in-house or do doc review.

Sad to see that this dude is totally shackled by his own devices. He has a prestigious, high-paying job and he has resume. Understandable that he wants out but lacking skills to make an exit is also a problem. The saying is "success begets success"; for this guy, his success is bringing him to failure.

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superttthero (Nov 9, 2018 - 1:30 pm)

What this guy is saying is that won't take the pay cut to do something else and he can't think of anything that will get him the money he's used to right out of the gate.

(although, so weird that he'd be living with his mother with the biglaw salary of a 5/6th year)

I don't think it's helpful to tell him he could be a pilates instructor.

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jeffm (Nov 9, 2018 - 2:56 pm)

That's exactly right. The ways out are endless. Nobody wants to give up the money. If you have no other skills, find someone in business with skills and learn from them.

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wearyattorney (Nov 9, 2018 - 3:51 pm)

It isn’t weird at all, and this guy’s situation reflects the massive problem in today’s society (that is particularly acute in this “profession”): money earned by trading time is not the same as money earned by investment. That’s why the wealthiest billionaires are Democrats: they know the current tax structure strips this guy of economic power by taxation and his minority status as a “rich” lawyer strips him of political power.

Run the numbers. Let’s say this guy had 300k in student loans and lives in California. Let’s say he makes 250k a year in big law, he’s clearing around 125k after all is said and done with taxes. Let’s say his student loan payment (to repay the loans quickly) is like 4k a month. We are now down 77,000 in take home pay. If the guy rented in the Cali market (where big law is located), throw in another 36k a year in rent. When it’s all said and done, without contributing a single cent to retirement, the “rich” lawyer has 3k a month left over without even touching food, entertainment and miscellaneous expenses. Not rich by a long shot. However, when 90 percent of the country has been decimated economically, any left over amount of money a month, from a political perspective, makes this guy “rich.” Enter Ms. Cortez from New York to jack this guy’s taxes another couple of percentage points because he’s “rich,” and this guy is being sucked dry by the system.

If the guy is living at home, that extra 36k can go into savings, and a bad situation turns into a tolerable situation, hence his dilemma.

If you plot out a guy that joined the LAPD with no student loans, account for pension residual income, lost wages, job security and difference in loan payments, the cop blows the “rich” big law attorney out of the water. And we haven’t even gotten into the scenario when this guy leaves big law and is 1) perma underemployed or 2) takes a massive pay cut to go inhouse.

And the above is just the economics picture, we aren’t even discussing quality of life. When the cop takes a week off, it’s a week off. When this guy takes a week “off,” it just means he doesn’t have to respond to the client’s email in an hour.

And this guy “won”... anyone else wondering why Northwestern is having fiscal troubles and why Harvard is trying to get the GRE adopted? I don’t. It’s clear as day.

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pherc (Nov 10, 2018 - 11:36 am)

Wearyattorney, your posts in this vein are ridiculous. The vast majority of big-law attorneys do not end up unemployed, and most end up with what are objectively very good careers. Some folks on this site have very unrealistic expectations in terms of what success is, a lot of you actually have it pretty good.

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wearyattorney (Nov 10, 2018 - 9:28 pm)

My posts in that vein are absolutely on point when you consider the individual circumstances of the people who fit that profile.

If you obtain big law and sustain employment in that environment for more than five years (without nepotism coming into play), then you objectively represent the top half of a percent of the American working age population from an intelligence, conscientiousness, work ethic, and standardize test taking ability perspective.

An individual of that caliber has many more options available than a normal person. To the extent that they have an “objectively” positive outcome, that is in terms of comparison of the overall population without taking account the above factors.

If you last five years in big law, you would have most likely risen to the top of any well paid civil service position in the United States. If you lasted five years in big law you could have competed in a similar environment where the chances of success are as low as biglaw, but the rewards are astronomically higher (investment banking).

A person that lasts five years in big law and has to deal with job insecurity for the rest of his or her career, with a salary of 150-200k in a high tax jurisdiction, no real retirement benefits, and high pressure work loads may be doing well in relation to someone that has been obliterated by globalization, eg an outsourced factory worker, but that big law attorney is being blown out of the water by protected California, Illinois, and New York municipal employees.

Now, I already know what the response to this post is going to be, it’s ridiculously difficult to get said municipal jobs and/or why don’t people that complain about the situation get said jobs. So I’ll reply in advance. It is harder to obtain and sustain biglaw employment than it is to obtain and sustain municipal employment in the choice jurisdictions. By the time most people realize this, they are too old to take advantage of it and/or too overqualified to be considered. The key is to get in early while the getting is good.

If you don’t believe this post because someone that partied hard in Woodstock and was employed in a relatively stable post War American economy is telling you what I am saying is a lie, welcome to the Hunger Games, I mean, 21st century private sector economy, and may the odds ever be in your favor.

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thirdtierlaw (Nov 11, 2018 - 8:56 am)

But you're incorrect that the best and the brightest advance to the top of these civil service jobs. That is not the reality, do municipal work for a little bit and tell me with a straight face that the "best and the brightest" are in the top spots in most of these positions.

You mention investment banking. Yes there is (a lot) more money to be made there, but choosing between the work life balance of big law vs. investment banking, big law wins hands down 10/10 times.

I'm not advocating that law school is right choice for most people, but your rosey view of civil service jobs isn't the reality for most civil servants. Not everyone can be a police officer in Bergen county NJ, or work for the municipal system in CA or IL.

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billcarson (Nov 11, 2018 - 9:26 am)

He pretty much hit on this:

“Now, I already know what the response to this post is going to be, it’s ridiculously difficult to get said municipal jobs and/or why don’t people that complain about the situation get said jobs. So I’ll reply in advance. It is harder to obtain and sustain biglaw employment than it is to obtain and sustain municipal employment in the choice jurisdictions”


I will add that in my few run-ins with boutique Midlaw (a far cry from Biglaw, which doesn’t exist in MN) you will get a reply to a late day Friday or AM weekend email you send with NO URGENCY in hours.

Regarding municipal/civil service jobs... yea it isn’t a meritocracy but neither is Biglaw at the associate track largely. Its about knowing the “rules” to climb the greased pole faster than your coworkers. Anyone capable of lasting five years as a TRUE associate in biglaw (no, edisc counsel or non-lockstep aren’t included—these guys are 9-5 no weekend glorified legal assistants in Biglaw (nothing wrong w/that either!!)) could ‘figure out’ how to rise through the GS labyrinth to under/dep sec roles at fed or into a Governor’s Administration in state.

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pherc (Nov 11, 2018 - 9:35 am)

Many big-law attorneys couldn’t hack it as a investment banker because IB requires a different skill set. Also, IB often requires a prestigious undergrad, whereas many big-law folks lack that. Many municipal jobs across the country (not everyone lives in California) are crap, and it is hardly true that big law attorneys have the political skills necessary to climb the ladder.

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thirdtierlaw (Nov 11, 2018 - 10:50 am)

I'm just not sure it is accurate. There is a well worn path to getting biglaw that just about everyone, who cares to, knows. Doesn't biglaw hire over 1,000 new associates every year? And all those associates need to come from law students or clerks. Whereas a municipal job in one of these desirable places is going to get applications from every walk of life. So it really may be much more difficult to get a municipal job like than big law.

Getting these gov/municipal jobs is a bit of the wild west. The highest paid sheriff's department in my state is staffed exclusively by one family and their family friends. During trials the court has us refer to the officers by their first names because so many of them share the same last name and the jury will get confused. So nepotism rules. Whereas the sheriff's department 2 towns over can't keep anyone on staff because they can only pay like $30k a year and they actually do a lot of dangerous police work. So theyll take anyone who can hold a gun.

Then you have the fed. You've applied to 100s of jobs and cant get an interview, I applied to 2 contact specialist positions and got offers in both. There is no rhyme or reason to it.

All that I am trying to say is that the vast majority of municipal workers arent getting paid well. Most are paid at market or below and will go years without an increase in salary.

If one of my kids was able to secure a police officer job in Bergen county I'd be a strong proponent of them taking it.

Wearyattorney isnt wrong that there are some amazing jobs out there that you can't get fired from.

My worry is, for the uninitiated, they will write off his good message due to him overselling these municipal jobs. It's no different than how most of us roll our eyes when law profs say law school is a great investment because your first job can pay you $180k/year! You do the research and realize that 180k isn't the typical outcome and then ignore everything else they say.

This is no different, people go and look up their local firemen's salary and see that they start at like $25k and max out at like $60k then they'll just write off everything else he says.

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dingbat (Nov 11, 2018 - 12:48 pm)

getting into biglaw is a simple path:

1) Get a high GPA and score well on the LSAT.
2) get into a T-14, or the handful of schools outside the T14 that send a decent number of attorneys to biglaw.
3) have grades above the cutoff
4) have the right list of extracurricular activities
5) have "the" personality.

#5 is what most people forget about. I've seen people with grades that should have been a lock get frozen out of OCI. Despite what most people who aren't in there think, biglaw is looking to hire future partners. If you don't look/act/sound the part, you ain't getting biglaw, no matter what your grades.

Once you're in biglaw, making partner is also straightforward:

1) always be available. Sorry, but 1st/2nd year associates aren't paid the big bucks for their (untrained) brilliant minds, but for their ability to be available 24/7 365 days a year.
A lot of attorneys burn out here sooner rather than later. Especially people from an, ahem, alternative background, they're just simply not prepared for the sacrifices required. Making $180k/yr as a 1st year is a lot of money to some. Others keep their eye on the prize.
2) bring in business. This is what separates the winners from the also-rans. Same as with ibanking, consulting, accounting, and whatever other field you may pick - anyone with half a brain can manage to survive at the lower ranks, but an 8th year associate is no more useful than a 4th year associate, but a lot more expensive. Bringing in business is what makes the big bucks. If you haven't started generating business by year 4 or maybe 5, it's time to look for exit options.

Also, you still don't get to have a life. Work hard and (wish you could) play hard.

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billcarson (Nov 11, 2018 - 2:08 pm)

What you just described proves the point that the person in OP at 5 years senior assoc experience could have put that motivation to something else. The list of accomplishments required to “just do” in your post is ridiculously unachievable to MOST lawyers, let alone most Americans.

Guy in OP had the grind and persistence to get into programming, engineering, or the like. Exceptional people are exceptional.

“You can always tell the winners from the start. You can tell the losers too. Who’d a put a penny on me.” —once upon a time in america

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dingbat (Nov 11, 2018 - 5:07 pm)

couldn't agree more. First week at law school I could already tell who the future Partners were - and who most definitely wouldn't be.

Girl in my section was top 10%, law review, moot court, on paper an absolute lock for biglaw. But, she came from a blue-color city with an obvious working class background. couldn't even get a callback after OCI.

People don't realize there are two sets of minimum requirements: making the grade, and looking/acting the part. If you don't manage both, you ain't getting your foot in the door

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wearyattorney (Nov 11, 2018 - 4:31 pm)

In Illinois, Mass, New York, New Jersey and California, where most of the big law jobs are located, the real municipal jobs are not based on nepotism, eg police, fire, sanitation, etc. They are based on exams. The caliber of people taking those exams, by and large, are nowhere near the same caliber as someone that legit survives in biglaw for 5 years. There are people who take the tests cold turkey without a day of studying without a high school diploma, and then said people are included in the failure statistics when they fail. This isn’t the same type of person even applying to big law, let alone obtaining it, let alone sustaining it.

A normal person with a standard BA, decent grades and study habits has a very high probability of obtaining those jobs. A person who can get biglaw will not only get those jobs, but he or she will pass the promotional exams and dominate in those hierarchies.

The same brainwashing and unclear thinking that leads people going to law school leads the same people into thinking all muncipal jobs are either reserved for ubermenchen or lottery winning luck or beneficiaries of extreme nepotism. That’s true for some municipal jobs, like it’s true for many legal jobs, but not the real municipal jobs.

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dingbat (Nov 11, 2018 - 5:09 pm)

stupid is as stupid does.

Some people have the talent and determination to be winners. They'll succeed no matter what life throws at them.
Some people have the talent, but not the determination, and they'll be sorely disappointed in life.
Others have the determination, but not the talent, and they'll live a happy middle-class existence.

And then there's Vohod

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dingbat (Nov 11, 2018 - 5:10 pm)

Sorry, vohod, I don't mean it. We love you

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billcarson (Nov 11, 2018 - 5:37 pm)

No its true. I have been cursed.

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wearyattorney (Nov 11, 2018 - 6:57 pm)

Part of talent is understanding the social structure you are immersed in, and part of determination is forcing yourself to overcome those biases to take advantage of the system in order to be successful.

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veryfinejim (Nov 26, 2018 - 11:57 pm)

So true. I dropped out of law school many years ago and was hired over the phone to teach in NYC public schools. Then I took a job in the wealthy suburbs. I'm way better off financially than most of the attorneys I know; even a few who went Biglaw. I know a few who made big bucks in Biglaw and their subsequent career trajectory, though they're the exception not the rule. But, I'm looking at retiring in a few years with a nice pension- can't say the same for most of the attorneys I know- whether they're solo or in-house. Oh, and I've had a wonderful work-life balance with summers off.

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jd4hire (Nov 9, 2018 - 1:33 pm)

This doesn't add up...6th year biglaw living at home and only paid off 75% of his loans.

Regardless, he needs to pay the rest of his loans off and then how much he makes becomes a little less important.

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wutwutwut (Nov 9, 2018 - 3:01 pm)

Imaginary conversations often do not add up.

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dingbat (Nov 9, 2018 - 3:47 pm)

reminds me of a friend of mine at a big 4 accounting firm. He wanted out, and was willing to take a 50% paycut, but couldn't find a job that paid even that much.

Few more years later, he up and quit out of the blue and moved to another big city. Ended up with the same job at a different big 4, with a 70% pay increase.

Fastforward 5 years, he finally transitioned to a "life-style" job in-house at a bank (technically VP, but not the kind that makes big bucks). lasted about a year before he finally found something he's happy with.

Now he works from home with little to no travel. Plenty of hours, but flexible, which he can live with. Pay is probably a tenth of what he'd made if he stayed at the big 4, and maybe half of what the bank was paying him. But he's happy.

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billcarson (Nov 9, 2018 - 7:29 pm)

OP is a misnomber.


"Incredibly lucrative successful 1%er to very successful 15%er."

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wallypancake (Nov 15, 2018 - 4:07 pm)

Update: I worked with Biglaw guy over the weekend on updating his resume so he can apply to jobs. He gave his firm 2 weeks notice yesterday and started the withdrawal process. He plans on leaving at the end of the month and then head to southeast Asia and Australia for 3 months. In the meantime, he will apply for in-house and boutique corporate IP firm jobs. He is also considering moving to a lower COL area if he can find something that makes sense.

He told me over the weekend that he wants to move to Colorado and find any work, no matter what. He would be a cab driver or a waiter if the hours were decent and the boss wasn't annoying. I cautioned him that 1) Colorado is expensive and 2) becoming a waiter or cab driver can harpoon his career. It seems that he is not going to do that and will focus on continuing his career outside of big law.

We'll see if he has any fire in him when gets back from his trip.

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jj82 (Dec 3, 2018 - 1:45 pm)

This type of behavior is the short-sighted product of no pre-requisite required for law school unlike other "professional schools."

Someone else previously mentioned the formula to become a Big Law lawyer. This system allows everyone from Warren Buffet to the bum on the street to be "Pre-Law," as it is a meaningless term. Because basically a high LSAT score is all that is required, too many folks get a top law-firm job despite never having any idea nor actual qualification for what they are making a career out of.

I no longer practice, and I think law practice is relatively worse than finance, accounting, etc. But the vast majority of people I know who worked BigLaw either left law for another professional-type job in one of aforementioned industries, or for those who did stay in law, found jobs making $300,000+ working in-house with very reasonable hours and very reasonable colleagues. Those making a leap out of Law into the world of toiling like described above have nothing to do with law as they are extreme outliers and are the same as anyone who never should have sought out a white-collar life to begin with in any profession...the trappings of corporate/office misery are not exclusive to Big Law (they are just made worse by the 4 years undergrad, 3 years of school, $ outlay, and licensing exam required just to be eligible for the misery when other fields, the 4 years undergrad is all required).

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cranky (Dec 3, 2018 - 2:35 pm)

jj82, what are you doing now? Did you give up your law license?

OP, I think your friend has burned his bridges and is unlikely to get a lucrative in-house job. Without being currently employed, people will think he got fired from his biglaw job, and running off to have fun overseas will be frowned upon (instant red flag of possibly having a mental breakdown). But if he'll really be happy getting any job in Colorado, well then, he may get his wish of driving for uber or working as a cashier there.

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