Author Topic: Any experienced attorneys willing to chat about how they got to FI?  (Read 2363 times)

catmustache

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Totally random and please let me know if this is completely not supposed to be here, but are there any attorneys willing to chat about their experience getting jobs and getting to FI? I graduated and passed the bar 3 years ago, but I've not done much working on cases since law school. I'm trying to figure out what kinds of law might be options and how to transition from administrative non-profit type work to something more lucrative and in a different state.

Anyone open to chatting here (or by private message) about their road or useful tips?



CommonCents

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Re: Any experienced attorneys willing to chat about how they got to FI?
« Reply #1 on: December 11, 2013, 08:57:42 PM »
I'm not FI yet, but I'm happy to answers questions.   PM or post your questions (I may respond in a PM though, depending on how detailed/personal the answer.)

catmustache

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Re: Any experienced attorneys willing to chat about how they got to FI?
« Reply #2 on: December 13, 2013, 07:29:30 AM »
Great! Thanks! I'm mostly wondering what kind of law you practice, how you got into it, what you do every day, what makes someone good at it, how much people make on average and how to transition into it if you're fairly new? I'm trying to find out what might be a good fit for me and how to translate my current skills in a new field if that makes sense?


Thanks again!



dragoncar

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Re: Any experienced attorneys willing to chat about how they got to FI?
« Reply #3 on: December 13, 2013, 08:00:10 AM »
I did a pretty traditional biglaw route (i.e. on campus interviews, summer associateship, etc.), so probably not much help here.  Most of my classmates, who changed it up went the other direction - start in soul-sucking biglaw, pay off loans, and then go non-profit.

But I'm commenting to watch the thread in case there's anything I should chime in on.

CommonCents

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Re: Any experienced attorneys willing to chat about how they got to FI?
« Reply #4 on: December 13, 2013, 08:14:37 AM »
I'm mostly wondering what kind of law you practice, how you got into it, what you do every day, what makes someone good at it, how much people make on average and how to transition into it if you're fairly new? I'm trying to find out what might be a good fit for me and how to translate my current skills in a new field if that makes sense?

I practice health law.  I had worked on a health care research study prior to law school (fell into it actually - I was supposed to working for a consulting firm, but almost all consulting firms reneged on their offers that year due to the economy).  I took a privacy law class and really enjoyed the health care aspects, so when I interviewed my 2L year, I looked for a good firm that would give me the option of health care if I wanted it.  I snagged a spot at the top/the second firm (depending on your view) in my desired city, with a very strong health care practice.  I am sure that my interest in health care and specific reason for working at the firm is what helped me land the spot (although law review and attending a top 10 law school didn't hurt).  My 2L spring I took health law and did really enjoy it.  Over the summer at the firm I cemented this decision.  With my impeccable timing, I once again though graduated into a recession though and most of my class was encouraged to look elsewhere for opportunities.  I worked there for a bit over 2 years after graduation.  After that I taught health law and ethics (I graduated with a joint degree in bioethics) for a bit and volunteered at a health law non-profit, before I landed my current position at the state executive office for health care. 

I've advised a number of law students.  My advice for transitioning into this particular field is to demonstrate a passion for it.  Volunteer to build up experience.  Without that, it's much harder to break into the field.  Join your city or state's bar association and don't just attend the health law sessions (or whatever is your passion) but join the committees to organize the events and make contacts.  It's slightly more recession proof than corporate law.

catmustache

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Re: Any experienced attorneys willing to chat about how they got to FI?
« Reply #5 on: December 13, 2013, 09:57:37 AM »
Thanks for the information on landing a spot in a new field. I really appreciate any additional knowledge I can get!
 Just a little more background on me, I graduated and started working part time in family law, and have been working on grants for the past two years. It's somewhat law-related in that I work with judges and attorneys and keep up with developments in one particular area of the law in the state, but in reality it's a lot of project management. I focused mostly on public interest law in law school, so I had quite a bit of experience there, but I do have some class work I could potential leverage as an interest in corporate law.

 In your experience, would larger law firms consider laterals based on volunteer work? I've been looking at a few jobs (albeit not in healthcare law) and it seems like they want people with 3-5 years of experience in the specific field as a lateral or want to hire law students for the summer associate programs. It sounds like you did a variety of things before landing your current job. Would it be unrealistic to apply as a lateral now and just focus on trying to get that experience through volunteering or other things first?

Also, I'm really interested in finding out more about healthcare law. Did you primarily work with one or two companies or hospitals and address their problems as they arise or do you handle issues from a variety of places? Why did you end up leaving your first job for your current one (if it's not rude to ask)? Do you like this one more? Why?

Thanks again! As soon as I can figure out what field I am interested in, I will start looking at local organizations out here where I can volunteer.



Bikes in a dress

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Re: Any experienced attorneys willing to chat about how they got to FI?
« Reply #6 on: December 13, 2013, 10:04:01 AM »
Not at FI yet, but hoping to in another 8 years.  Not sure how helpful I will be.  I'm a government lawyer.  The agency I work for hires a miniscule amount of attorneys right out of law school, and I was lucky enough to be one of those.  We do occasionally hire laterals, but usually from biglaw, and since the hiring freeze that doesn't happen anymore.  However, the pay is pretty good (http://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/salaries-wages/2012/general-schedule/), the job security is great, and the work (I practice administrative law) is interesting.  In admin law, it's a lot of appellate-type legal arguments, less factual discovery-based.   

I recently tried to leave my job for biglaw so I could move to another state, and I had the same experience you had- need 3-5 years experience in a pretty specific field, and it was not mine.  Since I'm an admin law lawyer, I have very little discovery experience, and was not nearly as markeatable as I thought.  Fortunately my agency transferred me to said new location anyway, so I no longer had to look.  But I've found it to be fairly difficult to switch fields, even after only a few years in.

One way to transition into a new field may be to take on some pro bono work.  For instance, I'm interested in practicing estate law eventually, so I've been taking on some pro bono cases.  That way I can learn about the field, make some contacts, and develop experience in the field.  However, this is something I'm thinking about doing as a side gig once I reach FI, so I'm not really looking for the money the same way you are. 

CommonCents

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Re: Any experienced attorneys willing to chat about how they got to FI?
« Reply #7 on: December 13, 2013, 11:48:43 AM »
In your experience, would larger law firms consider laterals based on volunteer work? I've been looking at a few jobs (albeit not in healthcare law) and it seems like they want people with 3-5 years of experience in the specific field as a lateral or want to hire law students for the summer associate programs. It sounds like you did a variety of things before landing your current job. Would it be unrealistic to apply as a lateral now and just focus on trying to get that experience through volunteering or other things first?

Also, I'm really interested in finding out more about healthcare law. Did you primarily work with one or two companies or hospitals and address their problems as they arise or do you handle issues from a variety of places? Why did you end up leaving your first job for your current one (if it's not rude to ask)? Do you like this one more? Why?

I'm sorry to say that I think very few "biglaw" firms would consider hiring a lateral without any biglaw experience at all.  If you *really* want to get into biglaw, consider going back to school for an LLM in something and then reapplying as a student.  But there's such a pyramid structure and there is a huge pipeline that they don't need to hire those without experience.  I think that they think biglaw exp is good, but also that it's a screener, so it saves their time sorting through candidates.  With laterals, firms tend to have a very good idea of what hole they are looking to fill and hire for it.  (It is still easier if going in at 3-5 years than more exp., because you have only specialized to a field at this point, and not beyond it.)  I know of only one person who made the move from govt to big law firm, but it was because he was hired by a family friend that was partner there.  However, you can go to a smaller firm, government or in-house.  I did interview for other firms, and had very good success in getting through multiple levels of interviews, but I doubt they would have looked at me w/o my prior biglaw experience.

I'll PM you this weekend regarding specifics of my prior job - just prefer not to name it on here.  In general, I worked for a firm with a large staff of health care attorneys (40?).  Partners had clients from a range of places (e.g. hospitals to insurance companies).  I'd be staffed up on longer term projects like bond financings, answer one off regulatory questions, help setting up companies, or do any questions that popped up for a life sciences client.  (Lawyers at this firm trended to one side or the other but there is some overlap between health care and life sciences.)  Due to the down turn in economy, I was also staffed on a pharmaceutical case once, doing secondary document review.

This job is very different in some big ways.  I've never pulled an all-nighter here for one.  I can come in 9:15 and leave 5:15 (I try to avoid the crowds a little with an offset commute).  Perfection was expected there, here, people understand you've got competiting priorities.  I also get paid a bit under 50% what I made there as a first year - I calculated for a friend yesterday and I think it was 43.5%.  Both places have some very smart people. 

blue mutant

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Re: Any experienced attorneys willing to chat about how they got to FI?
« Reply #8 on: December 14, 2013, 04:01:48 AM »
I see you mentioned working in family law to start out and I wondered if that is still (or ever was) an area of interest. I practice in that area through Legal Aid in Alberta. Pay is very good and stress is relatively low compared to the 3 and half years of private practice that preceded it. In private practice, I was making about $65,000 three years out of school and estimate that I would probably be at about $90K now (6 years out). If you had further questions about family law, feel free to ask but of course it may not be particularly relevant given the country and my own shift to a salaried staff counsel model through legal Aid.

catmustache

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Re: Any experienced attorneys willing to chat about how they got to FI?
« Reply #9 on: December 16, 2013, 07:38:41 AM »
@CommonCents - This is really interesting, thank you! It's sounding like biglaw is probably not a great immediate choice for me, since I lack experience and I'm not currently in law school. Healthcare law sounds really interesting (I have a neuroscience background and was pre-med for a while), so I might look into that further.

@Bikes in a Dress -  Thanks for the feedback on pro bono cases. Out of curiosity, does that conflict with your work at all? Do you ever need to get clearance before doing any cases? It's interesting that you were able to get transferred even while working in admin law. That's an option I never thought of since my job is state-specific, but I may try to reach out to similar agencies in other states to see what they think. I'm not looking for a ton of money, but I'm currently in the upper thirties to lower forties, which isn't great with the amount of loans I incurred.

@blue mutant - I'm currently working in  family law, but I do have a question about your experience. Do you regret making the shift to a lower-paying job legal aid job from private practice? Has that impacted your FI journey much? Also, how have you avoided getting burnt out on the work? Part of my dissatisfaction with my current job is just being tired of the sad stories and outcomes for the cases I look at. Granted, I don't work with any clients, more just reading over past cases, so that might be a part of it.

Thank you so much everyone for the input. I'm going to put some more work into finding out what kind of law might be a good fit for me and how to break into it.



CommonCents

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Re: Any experienced attorneys willing to chat about how they got to FI?
« Reply #10 on: December 16, 2013, 08:33:16 AM »
If you are in the Boston area, I'm happy to meet up with you in person.

blue mutant

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Re: Any experienced attorneys willing to chat about how they got to FI?
« Reply #11 on: December 16, 2013, 04:19:46 PM »
I probably wasn't very clear; my pay right now is higher than it was in private practice with other perks as well (RRSP (401?) matching). The impact on FI (which I am nowhere near) has therefore been positive.  About 1/3 of the work is child welfare work which can be quite demoralizing because of low client engagement, rubber stamping conservative court systems and other issues. 2/3 is civil family litigation, which I don't find to be too bad as I am usually representing someone who is disadvantaged, benefits greatly from my assitance and is grateful. Of course that is not always the case. Ultimately, the financial practice of law (billing, A/R etc) was my least favorite part of the practice of law so I am immeasurably grateful to have moved away from that aspect of it.

hoodedfalcon

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Re: Any experienced attorneys willing to chat about how they got to FI?
« Reply #12 on: December 16, 2013, 07:01:29 PM »
I probably won't be much help since I am a. no where near FI, and b. currently work at a non-profit. I do daydream of moving elsewhere and since I don't think I will ever be in the mood to take another bar exam, I will be looking into alternative legal (or non-legal) jobs. But, for what it's worth, working for a non-profit has some perks. I don't have any desire to bill or chase people down when they don't pay. I will qualify for PSLF in 7 years which will do wonders for my FI date. I work with awesome people and no one micromanages me, and sometimes I look around and the work I do and the people I work with and for and I feel damn lucky. 

I think if you want to make a move, three years out is the perfect time. It will get harder and harder to make a major shift, not that it isn't possible. Also, there are non-case based legal jobs out there. I have maybe one case (impact litigation) per year, and the rest of my workload is mostly policy.

I know I will never be allowed into the world of traditional biglaw, as my entire work history reads as a giant middle finger to mainstream American culture. Sure, it means FI is a long ways away, but I am okay with that. For now.

catmustache

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Re: Any experienced attorneys willing to chat about how they got to FI?
« Reply #13 on: December 19, 2013, 07:34:16 AM »
Thanks for all the input, everyone! It's interesting to learn all the different paths that might be possible without necessarily going into biglaw. I think the main thing that's stuck out to me is that it may not be worth staying in a path that I'm indifferent to. Everyone seems like they've drilled down to find out what kind of law they want to do and what they do or do not like about one job before moving to the next. That said, I think you're right hoodedfalcon, three years is probably a good time to try to find something else to do.

Thanks again. :)



RootofGood

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Re: Any experienced attorneys willing to chat about how they got to FI?
« Reply #14 on: December 19, 2013, 08:04:46 AM »
I finished up law school from a top 25 school.  Along the way I realized the practice of law wasn't such a great way to make money unless you want to work 50-60+ hrs/week.  So I went for my back up plan.  Engineering.  10 years later of mostly 40 hrs/week working, I'm retired. 

For best return on investment in law (if that were my only career path option), I might work at a firm or legal aid for a few years then try to get on with the attorney general's office or a city attorney's office.  They tend to make more money than small law firm attorneys, and end up with close to 40 hrs/wk (hence good quality of life).  I did summer clerkships at the city attorney's office and the state AG's office, and both work environments were pretty laid back.  Unfortunately, the biggest benefit of government jobs, the pension, won't help you much if you plan on ER'ing. 
Retired at age 33 to spend more time with my wife and 3 kids.  2 years in and still loving every minute!
Sharing my thoughts on early retirement, finances, taxes, travel, and life in general at rootofgood.com