Hi guys -- been reading for a long time, just started posting, so figured I'd join in here. Professionally: chose a top-whatever public law school over private (at the time, $3K vs. $17K -- best decision ever). Law Review, etc., yada yada; biglaw summer associate jobs and tight budgets allowed me to pay my own way after my first year, so I graduated with only $2K in additional debt (had $7500 from undergrad). Graduated in early '90s; started at a big regional firm in my hometown, because I didn't know what I wanted to specialize in but knew I didn't want to do it for 2200 hrs/yr; got my loans/car paid off in @2 years. Jumped ship to a smaller firm to do environmental after a few years for what was at the time a pretty awesome raise (from @$63K(?) to @$86K). Went in-house for a few years when I married DH and he got caught in the tech crash (see the epic FU stories thread for more detail on that 2.5-years-of-hell), took a @1/3 paycut. Ended up telecommuting back to my old firm for a few years (hourly/part time as we had our first kid), worked less than half-time for maybe $15K less than I had been making. Moved back to my hometown and the office about 12-13 years ago, elected partner a year later, added another kid and stayed part-time for a few more years, went full-time a few years ago.
My primary professional goals have been (i) not to be poor, and (ii) not to be bored, and I've generally done decently on both. I don't get the big bucks like everyone expects from the "partner in a law firm" title (i.e., have never even gotten close to $500K), but, come on, it's all ridiculous in comparison to normal salaries, and I have a pretty awesome quality of life on a $/hr worked basis, and lots of freedom to do what I want (today, for ex., I am sitting in my recliner with my laptop, though I guess I should change out of my bathrobe before DD gets home from HS). My favorite thing is all the extra perks -- the profit-sharing lets me add another @$35K/yr to the 401(k), my medical and dental are fully paid-for, we have a small gym and shower room at the office, my office is fantastic, my assistant totally spoils me by making sure they have the kind of tea I like, etc. [To be clear, we are not a luxury/fancy office at all -- no marble and fancy paintings, small kitchen with no room for tables, etc. -- but the things we have I appreciate more than visible luxury. E.g., adding the shower room has allowed me to go to Crossfit at 6, drive in early enough to beat traffic, and be ready to go by 8 -- to me, that is a huge, huge quality-of-life perk].
I am sort of at a point of boredom, though, and just tired of the up and down and marketing chase. Last year, my months ranged from 200 hrs (billable only) to 65 hrs, and I still overall managed to bill 100 hrs more than I had in probably a decade (not counting the "creditable" hours I get for a firm management role). And then it all fell off a cliff and I have had nothing to do since before Christmas, so I need to get off my ass and on airplanes again, and, just, ugh. So now I am doing what I always do when I get in a rut: reworking Quicken and evaluating options. :-) We are FI but we have no plans to RE for another 7-8 years for a variety of reasons, which unfortunately is a dangerous place to be, as it is tempting to say, you know, I don't need this any more. But realistically, I like the people I work with a *lot*, the work can be really interesting, DH and I can't implement our full RE plans until the kids are out anyway, and I've discovered I am fond of having a firehose of cash coming in. :-) So I am more likely to tweak around the corners instead of making huge changes, because this is really pretty sweet when I think about it objectively, and I'm pretty sure the grass is not greener.