Law School Discussion

Real deal on law firm life

Real deal on law firm life
« 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?

Re: Real deal on law firm life
« Reply #1 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.   

Re: Real deal on law firm life
« Reply #2 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.

vaplaugh

Re: Real deal on law firm life
« Reply #3 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)

jacy85

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Re: Real deal on law firm life
« Reply #4 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.

Re: Real deal on law firm life
« Reply #5 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.

Re: Real deal on law firm life
« Reply #6 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?

Re: Real deal on law firm life
« Reply #7 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).

Re: Real deal on law firm life
« Reply #8 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...

jacy85

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Re: Real deal on law firm life
« Reply #9 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.