LRP, are you happy with your decision to go into biglaw? I recall you went to Berkeley...are you happy with your decision, and with the amount of time you expect to take to pay off your school loans?
Honestly, given my loan burden it would have been difficult to do anything but Biglaw. I have a very tight relationship with a PI organization that I summered and externed with in Florida, and while I could have taken a job there, financially, it made more sense to do Biglaw, at least for a while.
IF I am smart about it, it shouldn't take more than five years, but Biglaw comes with the burden of having to dress and live the part, so I am spending more money on things I wouldn't have before.
Craven, your summer experience is not really indicative of what is expected of you and what is indeed the daily reality once you join. When I summered, between my fancy lunches, dog & pony shows from every practice group and various other activities, I did maybe 2 hours of billable work each day. Now I rarely leave the office before 8 pm.
What extra expenses do biglaw jobs require over a public interest/government/smaller firm job?
It's not really required, but there's a lot of pressure to wear designer labels. I held out for about the first six months just because I always felt I dressed neatly and professionally, but eventually, looking more shabby than the rest of your team gets old and you head into the designer boutiques just like everyone else. For me, it meant I had to get nicer sutis, nicer shoes, nicer bags.
I never felt this pressure when I worked in a public interest firm. In fact, as an extern and as a summer, I looked more put together than most of the lawyers, who tended to show up to work wearing jeans and tshirts.
Also, when most of the people you hang out with during the week become the people you work with, you end up spending more money on eating and drinking with them. I usually prefer to cook at home and keep it simple, but I probably spend anywhere from £100-£200/week on eating out and drinking with my colleagues. Again, this isn't a necessity, and is certainly something you can control, but no matter how frugal you intend to be, this lifestyle becomes you.