Law School Discussion

Law Students => Job Search => Topic started by: marsilni on September 26, 2007, 01:02:12 PM

Title: Real deal on law firm life
Post by: marsilni on September 26, 2007, 01:02:12 PM
I have heard so many different stories about the lives of law firm associates.  It is just hard for me to believe that every high paying law firm requires their associates to work 60+ hours every week.  If being a lawyer is such a miserable profession then why is enrollment/interest in law school higher than ever before?  Why do people become lawyers and work at high paying law firms if the firms do rob them of having any life?  How do lawyers find time to get married and have kids if they are working so much?  I am not scared of working hard, but I do not want 60+ hours to be the norm at my job.  I can see myself being happy while working 50 hours or more, on average, and some weekends, but I do not want to be at a job that requires me to sell my soul.  Can anyone share their experience working at a large/mid-sized firm?  What are typical hours/schedules?
Title: Re: Real deal on law firm life
Post by: thorc954 on September 26, 2007, 01:53:25 PM
same john galt from LSN from a few years back? (Harvard URM I think it was?)...

Anyway, 60 hours may seem like a lot, but think of how many hours a week you put in now with studying and all.  It ends up being less work then you are doing right now.  I have friends that did 1L summer associate jobs and loved it.  I know SA jobs are different, but if you enjoy the work, 60 hours a week is not bad.  I mean, it is not ideal, but it is doable.   
Title: Re: Real deal on law firm life
Post by: Mr. Roe on September 26, 2007, 02:02:04 PM
FInd out what the billing requirements are at the firms you are interested in, that will tell you how many hours you have to work. A 2000 hour billing requirment is going to run you roughly 60-70 hours a week at work, depending on how much nonbilling stuff you do (like eat, development, firm meeting). 1500 is going to run you about a 40 hours a week, both assuming you take 2 weeks vacation and holidays.

This is exactly why you shouldn't rely on this board to answer your question...ask a real lawyer, somebody in a big firm who actually bills 2000 hours/year.

To say that in order to bill 2000 hours you have to work 60-70 a week is utterly retarded.  Let's say you work 48 weeks out of the year...2000/48 = 41.6 hours/week...so assuming that you bill 80% of your time at work (which is a standard at many firms), you would have to work 52 hours per week.  Some weeks may require 60 or more, but average at my firm is ALWAYS under 60, and sometimes under 50...and its still possible to bill 2000.

Don't forget, pro bono work can often be included toward billable requirements (sometimes in upwards of 250+ hours). Think about that.
Title: Re: Real deal on law firm life
Post by: vaplaugh on September 26, 2007, 02:23:04 PM
Mainly just posting to tag, but... 80%?  Does the Yale "truth about billable hour" that floats around on these boards from time to time understate reasonable productivity?

(http://www.law.yale.edu/documents/pdf/CDO_Public/cdo-billable_hour.pdf)
Title: Re: Real deal on law firm life
Post by: jacy85 on September 26, 2007, 02:38:52 PM
You're not working 60 hours a week every week.  In most cases, your work will come and go - some months you'll work 70+ hours a week for a few weeks, and then work a more "normal" amount for a few weeks after that (50 or so maybe).

This was at least true in the firm I summered in and the firm I worked for before law school, at least in their litigation practice groups. 

My personal feeling is that its a better policy for firms to allow associates to leave the office, and take advantage of the "slow" periods.  I think it reduces burnout from the high periods.  This was something I looked for in choosing a firm to work for last summer.
Title: Re: Real deal on law firm life
Post by: marsilni on September 26, 2007, 07:32:55 PM
Aha, again I get these conflicting reports. I would imagine that being a lawyer requires more than the average 9-5 but not a regular 8-8.  I have no problem, and expect, to log the very long days when there is a very important case in the works or a huge deadline that needs to be met. The way I see it, any job in any field that pays six figures is going to require many hours anyway. However, I know I do not want to work at a big firm if I am always being pressed to log 60+ hours per week.  How much does the culture of a firm (work environment, requirements/expectations, coworker relationships) differ from firm to firm and is it the culture that can make your job great or terrible?  Please, if anyone has first hand experience, share it.
Title: Re: Real deal on law firm life
Post by: marsilni on September 27, 2007, 06:22:31 AM
Mr. Roe, are you speaking from personal experience?  How large is the firm you work at and where is it located?
Title: Re: Real deal on law firm life
Post by: Eva Destruction on September 27, 2007, 08:56:47 AM
Tag, but I would also like to note that in other industries, it's assumed that you're spending 60% of your time on projects and 40% on overhead (dept. meetings, training, etc).
Title: Re: Real deal on law firm life
Post by: Mr. Roe on September 27, 2007, 12:59:30 PM
Yes, I am speaking from experience, I work at a V50 law firm, billed 2000 last year, and didn't work "60-70 hours" every week.  It is understood at many firms that associates will "overbill," and it is true as Mr. Galt said that the hours can be cut, but most partners are either to busy, or just flat out don't care to do it.

Remember, you aren't literally working 100% of the time on a client's matter in order to bill 100% of it.  Nobody I know stops billing a client when they go to the bathroom, or take a 5 minute coffee break.  You just bill it all together, after all, you could be thinking about the work when you are chilling on the toilet, right?

And trust me, I'm not the biggest loser at my firm, and I didn't burn out after a couple months, simply because of the fact that I don't freak out over 10-20 minutes/day of overbilling.

The biggest losers are those who do.

Oh, and one last thing...nobody takes an hour for lunch every single day at my firm...
Title: Re: Real deal on law firm life
Post by: jacy85 on September 27, 2007, 03:36:16 PM

Also just because you bill 2.5 on a project does not necessarily mean you will get credit for the full 2.5. A partner is going to approve the amount that will actually be billed. Different firms treat unrealized billables differently, thay may count for perfomrance reviews but not bonus requiremets. 

The effect "cutting" billable hours will have on your yearly total depends on the firm.  The firm I'll be working for may cut hours, but in terms of looking at who qualifies for a bonus, those hours still count toward your total.  Other firms aren't as generous, and if the client never pays for your hours, you don't get credit for them come bonus time.
Title: Re: Real deal on law firm life
Post by: marsilni on September 27, 2007, 07:07:25 PM
Exactly what happens if you don't meet the billable requirement?  What hours (from when to when), on a typical day, do you work?
Title: Re: Real deal on law firm life
Post by: vaplaugh on September 27, 2007, 07:42:52 PM
Exactly what happens if you don't meet the billable requirement?

Depends on the firm, but someone I know had a meeting with a few partners about getting the hours up.  They probably won't fire you off the bat - most likely give you a warning.  This, of course, assumes you're not meeting the hours simply because you're not getting enough work and haven't spoken up and said "Hey, I'm only working 40-50 hours a week, should I be working more?"  (Not because you're slacking off and not getting assigned work done).  She didn't speak up, so about 8 months passed until they realized she "needed" the hours.  They put her on a trial team that worked 6.5 days a week and allowed her one night at home with her husband (5 p.m. Saturday to 2:00 p.m. Sunday) because the 1.5 hour round trip commute was worth more in billable hours than the cost of a hotel room and food.
Title: Re: Real deal on law firm life
Post by: jacy85 on September 27, 2007, 08:07:59 PM
As vap said, it depends on the firm.  I think generally, if you don't meet the min, first and most immediate, you won't get your bonus.  Next, if you miss your billable goals on a more "regular" basis, then you'll likely be meeting with the partners to figure out what you're doing wrong.  Finally, if you fail to get your hours up, you'll eventually be fired.
Title: Re: Real deal on law firm life
Post by: marsilni on September 27, 2007, 09:03:23 PM
If you work 50 hour weeks 48 weeks out of the year (2400 hours), why is it so unthinkable to bill 1900?  Is everything okay so long as you hit 1900 (if that is the minimum) or are they expecting those who want to make partner to bill a lot more than the minimum?  I got no problem with working for a few years at a firm to pay back my school debt and then bolting for a less hectic job with better hours if that is the case.
Title: Re: Real deal on law firm life
Post by: themanwithnoname on September 27, 2007, 09:05:22 PM
If you want to make partner you have to work a lot more than the minimum.
Title: Re: Real deal on law firm life
Post by: jacy85 on September 28, 2007, 05:35:03 AM
If you work 50 hour weeks 48 weeks out of the year (2400 hours), why is it so unthinkable to bill 1900?  Is everything okay so long as you hit 1900 (if that is the minimum) or are they expecting those who want to make partner to bill a lot more than the minimum?  I got no problem with working for a few years at a firm to pay back my school debt and then bolting for a less hectic job with better hours if that is the case.

When you work 50 hours a week, you're not BILLING 50 hours a week.  Some weeks, you have more non-billable hours than you do billable.  For a 2000 minimum, the "budget" is to bill something like 166 hrs a month.  That works out to about 40 hours a week, but some weeks you'll work 50 hours, and not hit 40 billables, depending on what your firm allows you to count as billable and what's going on during the week, the workload, etc.
Title: Re: Real deal on law firm life
Post by: vaplaugh on September 28, 2007, 06:35:39 AM
If you work 50 hour weeks 48 weeks out of the year (2400 hours), why is it so unthinkable to bill 1900?  Is everything okay so long as you hit 1900 (if that is the minimum) or are they expecting those who want to make partner to bill a lot more than the minimum?  I got no problem with working for a few years at a firm to pay back my school debt and then bolting for a less hectic job with better hours if that is the case.

That's what one poster suggested as billing 80% of your time.  (1900/2400 = .79).

Which would mean billing 8 hours in a 10-hour work day.  I've never had to work for billable hours, but my understanding is that obtaining 80% billables is extremely unlikely unless you are a machine or overbilling.  It's a lot easier to do "on paper" than in real life.
Title: Re: Real deal on law firm life
Post by: Bob Loblaw Esq. on October 12, 2007, 02:18:41 PM
Yes, I am speaking from experience, I work at a V50 law firm, billed 2000 last year, and didn't work "60-70 hours" every week.  It is understood at many firms that associates will "overbill," and it is true as Mr. Galt said that the hours can be cut, but most partners are either to busy, or just flat out don't care to do it.

Remember, you aren't literally working 100% of the time on a client's matter in order to bill 100% of it.  Nobody I know stops billing a client when they go to the bathroom, or take a 5 minute coffee break.  You just bill it all together, after all, you could be thinking about the work when you are chilling on the toilet, right?

And trust me, I'm not the biggest loser at my firm, and I didn't burn out after a couple months, simply because of the fact that I don't freak out over 10-20 minutes/day of overbilling.

The biggest losers are those who do.

Oh, and one last thing...nobody takes an hour for lunch every single day at my firm...

if you

(1) are a law school graduate,
(2) working at a V50 firm, and
(3) spend your time bashing lsd posters in almost all of your previous posts

you are most likely one of the biggest losers at your firm.  sorry.
Title: Re: Real deal on law firm life
Post by: mc378 on October 13, 2007, 04:06:21 PM
Mr. Roe's multiple replies contain excellent advice and are entirely accurate.  His point about asking an attorney is well taken. 

With that said, keep in mind that not every attorney will be a good fit for a large firm. I began my career at a large firm and enjoyed it.  After several years, I left that firm with a practice group to form a 20-attorney boutique. At my new firm, I work many less hours, few weekends, and the occasional late night.  I also make almost as much money as I would have if I had remained at my old firm.

Surprisingly, among the hundreds of attorneys with whom I have worked over the years, the top 5 most successful are plaintiffs' attorneys at small firms (or solo practitioners). Their income blows away all but the highest-paid partners at the large firms. Smaller firms also allow more latitude for entrepreneurialism.  When I graduated from law school, I would have been devastated had I not been offered a position with a large firm. If I had only known then what I know now....
Title: Re: Real deal on law firm life
Post by: yalecollege06 on October 31, 2007, 10:23:26 PM
If being a lawyer is such a miserable profession then why is enrollment/interest in law school higher than ever before?  Why do people become lawyers and work at high paying law firms if the firms do rob them of having any life?

$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
Title: Re: Real deal on law firm life
Post by: yalecollege06 on October 31, 2007, 10:25:48 PM
Mr. Roe's multiple replies contain excellent advice and are entirely accurate.  His point about asking an attorney is well taken.

With that said, keep in mind that not every attorney will be a good fit for a large firm. I began my career at a large firm and enjoyed it.  After several years, I left that firm with a practice group to form a 20-attorney boutique. At my new firm, I work many less hours, few weekends, and the occasional late night.  I also make almost as much money as I would have if I had remained at my old firm.

Surprisingly, among the hundreds of attorneys with whom I have worked over the years, the top 5 most successful are plaintiffs' attorneys at small firms (or solo practitioners). Their income blows away all but the highest-paid partners at the large firms. Smaller firms also allow more latitude for entrepreneurialism.  When I graduated from law school, I would have been devastated had I not been offered a position with a large firm. If I had only known then what I know now....


Isn't it also true that at some boutiques / small firms, the lawyers work really really long hours, too--particualarly at the boutiques whose profits blow away the profits per partner of big firms?
Title: Re: Real deal on law firm life
Post by: Best-Legal-Aid.com on July 05, 2008, 08:37:27 AM
Most of it is based more on the region where the firm is located rather than the firm.  So if you're in New York, you will be billing crazy hours and working late no matter if you are working in mid-size or large firms.  If you are in Florida, the pace is much slower and even large law firms do not expect you to work past 7 pm unless you are working on a big case.
Title: Re: Real deal on law firm life
Post by: Connelly on July 18, 2008, 12:09:55 PM
Just make sure you know the real deal on how the rest of the world works as well.  There are very few jobs where you can come in, work 40 hours a week, and then completely mentally and physically check out at the end of the day and still get paid extremely well.  I am not saying that being a lawyer is a walk in the park or that the rest of the world is 60+ hour drudgery, but we need to be sure we're making accurate comparisons.  If your goal is to work your 40 hours, pick up your paycheck, and go home, then that will eventually become evident to those around you no matter your career. 

The other side of this is that I see people who have no idea of what even a 40 hour work week feels like making the decision to go work 70+ hour weeks at large firms.  Not very curious why there is a lot of burnout.
Title: Re: Real deal on law firm life
Post by: LittleRussianPrincess, Esq. on August 17, 2008, 05:48:25 AM
FInd out what the billing requirements are at the firms you are interested in, that will tell you how many hours you have to work. A 2000 hour billing requirment is going to run you roughly 60-70 hours a week at work, depending on how much nonbilling stuff you do (like eat, development, firm meeting). 1500 is going to run you about a 40 hours a week, both assuming you take 2 weeks vacation and holidays.

This is exactly why you shouldn't rely on this board to answer your question...ask a real lawyer, somebody in a big firm who actually bills 2000 hours/year.
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To say that in order to bill 2000 hours you have to work 60-70 a week is utterly retarded.  Let's say you work 48 weeks out of the year...2000/48 = 41.6 hours/week...so assuming that you bill 80% of your time at work (which is a standard at many firms), you would have to work 52 hours per week.  Some weeks may require 60 or more, but average at my firm is ALWAYS under 60, and sometimes under 50...and its still possible to bill 2000.

Don't forget, pro bono work can often be included toward billable requirements (sometimes in upwards of 250+ hours). Think about that.

Actually, Galt's figure is not that far off.  We are discussing the MINIMUM billable hours. What you fail to take into account is that you are not free to stop working as soon as you reach the minimum, nor does your work day tailor neatly to the rigid calculation of 50 hour weeks. Some weeks will be 35 hour weeks, but most will be much longer than that. In reality, the billable minimums are useless as a measure of how much work you actually do. You do all the work that is given to you. When you meet your minimum billable requirement (you WILL do so and you WILL go over it) you are entitled to your bonus and/or you're "safe" for the year.

Title: Re: Real deal on law firm life
Post by: deedeeleigh on August 17, 2008, 04:57:00 PM
Is there a good resource to find out a firm's true minimum billables (especially for those that don't list a minimum billable requirement on NALP). I just don't believe some NY firms when they say 1850 is their minimum on NALP and would like some concrete numbers. Also, what firms require different levels of billables for different levels of bonuses? Infirmation doesn't seem to have updated info.
Title: Re: Real deal on law firm life
Post by: offer on August 17, 2008, 05:33:36 PM
Is there a good resource to find out a firm's true minimum billables (especially for those that don't list a minimum billable requirement on NALP). I just don't believe some NY firms when they say 1850 is their minimum on NALP and would like some concrete numbers. Also, what firms require different levels of billables for different levels of bonuses? Infirmation doesn't seem to have updated info.

Some NALP forms show the average billable hours worked and the average total hours worked.  These numbers, however, can be misleading.
Title: Re: Real deal on law firm life
Post by: uh huh. on August 18, 2008, 07:11:23 AM
Just make sure you know the real deal on how the rest of the world works as well.  There are very few jobs where you can come in, work 40 hours a week, and then completely mentally and physically check out at the end of the day and still get paid extremely well.

This is a great point. I worked in advertising sales for a decade before becoming a lawyer, and my work week now is really no different than it was before. Most jobs worth having are NOT 40-hour per week gigs, no matter what industry you're in.
Title: Re: Real deal on law firm life
Post by: LittleRussianPrincess, Esq. on August 19, 2008, 03:18:07 AM
Just make sure you know the real deal on how the rest of the world works as well.  There are very few jobs where you can come in, work 40 hours a week, and then completely mentally and physically check out at the end of the day and still get paid extremely well.

This is a great point. I worked in advertising sales for a decade before becoming a lawyer, and my work week now is really no different than it was before. Most jobs worth having are NOT 40-hour per week gigs, no matter what industry you're in.

Worth having in terms of financial or personal satisfaction? Or both?
Title: Re: Real deal on law firm life
Post by: uh huh. on August 19, 2008, 06:54:18 AM
Just make sure you know the real deal on how the rest of the world works as well.  There are very few jobs where you can come in, work 40 hours a week, and then completely mentally and physically check out at the end of the day and still get paid extremely well.

This is a great point. I worked in advertising sales for a decade before becoming a lawyer, and my work week now is really no different than it was before. Most jobs worth having are NOT 40-hour per week gigs, no matter what industry you're in.

Worth having in terms of financial or personal satisfaction? Or both?

Personal satisfaction - if you really care about your career and your reputation in your industry, you're not punching out when you hit 40 hours.
Title: Re: Real deal on law firm life
Post by: offer on August 19, 2008, 07:01:35 AM
What jobs only require 40 hours per week nowadays?

Someone post a list, and let's see how they compare with a biglaw job.
Title: Re: Real deal on law firm life
Post by: Connelly on August 19, 2008, 08:03:11 AM
Actuary is a job that is often advertised as having its workers hard pressed to work a total of 40 hours per week.  There is good earning potential, though it would take awhile and some luck to catch up to biglaw.  Having a life outside of work would be the trade-off.

It's difficult for me to think of many other professions where working 40 hours and completely leaving your work at the office will provide both a lot of pay and make you good at what you do.  Those people that I know that are intent on 40 hours per week get their 2-4% raises per year and make slow (though steady for the most part) progress.  There are two main kinds of employees.  The first is the kind that is there for the paycheck and only the paycheck.  This is not bad in any way, but it is what it is and constitutes a large percentage of the work force.  The second is the kind that has a passionate interest in what they do and sees the success of the business as their personal responsibility.  Working 8:30-5:30 is not their concern - success is their concern.  It's a significant paradigm shift for most people to move from the first kind to the second kind of employee.  You don't have to be a workaholic to be like the second kind of employee, but you can't expect that everything you need to do to be the best you can will always fit in Mon-Fri 8:30-5:30 or whatever. 

While it is greatly encouraging to see young people here be congnizant of the fact that some professions have a darker side that needs to be watched out for, many threads on these forums are also depressing.  People who have little work experience will make threads about trying to get as much money for as little effort as possible.  Newsflash:  that does not make you stick out from the crowd.  What makes you stick out is the desire to be great at whatever it is that you do along with how you treat people.  Again, I am glad that many people are aware of the trap that biglaw firms are  ;D, but a hold-your-nose approach to work isn't going to impress a lot of employers either. 
Title: Re: Real deal on law firm life
Post by: uh huh. on August 19, 2008, 08:09:49 AM
What makes you stick out is the desire to be great at whatever it is that you do along with how you treat people.  Again, I am glad that many people are aware of the trap that biglaw firms are  ;D, but a hold-your-nose approach to work isn't going to impress a lot of employers either. 

Yup - do what you love, do it well, and the money will come. It's always worked for me.