Author Topic: Herein, people making $160k+ a year complain about bonuses not being enough  (Read 12618 times)

Tabaxus

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http://abovethelaw.com/2015/12/5-reasons-these-biglaw-bonuses-suck/

Even if the thread is a little factious (it's not), these people start at $160k a year out of law school, this goes up by a significant amount every year, they start at a $15k bonus, which also goes up every year, and they're complaining that the (insanely high) base pay and bonuses have declined when compared to inflation.

One word comes to mind:

"Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa"

MgoSam

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I have a cousin who works on Wall Street, makes a good living and is a reasonable good person, except on economic issues. He was one of the people complaining about how Wall Street has been made the victim of the last recession and was rightfully destroyed by everyone in the family that heard him. Of course, he is one of the guys that told me I shouldn't consider retiring unless I have at least 2 million. Then again, he has a brownstone in Long Island, so his property taxes alone might be more than I spend on everything annually (not to mention he has two kids in private schools).

nobodyspecial

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they're complaining that the (insanely high) base pay and bonuses have declined when compared to inflation.
How much are they billing ?
If they are bringing in $10M in fees and being paid $200K then they are being underpaid.

I get a $1000 bonus on a patent that is going to earn the company a $M/year and add $100M to its valuation am I being underpaid ?
« Last Edit: December 12, 2015, 06:17:24 PM by nobodyspecial »

FIREby35

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They are not billing 10 million in fees. 2100 hours x $400 p/r hour* = $840,000 per year.

The thing is, those jobs are, in my opinion, not worth the money. They basically take over your life and offer money in return. Practicing law doesn't have to be like that and, if you do it right, you can make more working less. But, that is a whole other topic.

*They could be billing more or less than $400 per hour depending on the city and the years of experience of the associate. There are some attorneys on this forum that actually work that kind of job so they could give a decent estimate.
« Last Edit: December 13, 2015, 06:45:36 PM by FIREby35 »

Alabaster

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they're complaining that the (insanely high) base pay and bonuses have declined when compared to inflation.
How much are they billing ?
If they are bringing in $10M in fees and being paid $200K then they are being underpaid.

I get a $1000 bonus on a patent that is going to earn the company a $M/year and add $100M to its valuation am I being underpaid ?

No. A lot went into that patent from a lot of people besides you. I don't know how hard it is to get a patent through - but presumably its not a guaranteed thing. You should be compensated for your time at a rate decided roughly by the market. Your bonus should be a reasonably small part of your overall pay imho and should be proportional to the work done (i.e. I would expect longer projects to give bigger bonuses).

dragoncar

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It is typical for associate compensation to be around 25%-30% of revenue generated (compensation not cost of employment which is higher). 

Obviously its in poor taste to complain about bonuses, but the context is that billing rates and this revenue has gone up faster than inflation but total compensation has gone up slower than inflation.  So where does the extra money go?  The partners.  Fair or not, I think most people can understand complaining that your boss is making more and giving you less

Undecided

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http://abovethelaw.com/2015/12/5-reasons-these-biglaw-bonuses-suck/

Even if the thread is a little factious (it's not), these people start at $160k a year out of law school, this goes up by a significant amount every year, they start at a $15k bonus, which also goes up every year, and they're complaining that the (insanely high) base pay and bonuses have declined when compared to inflation.

One word comes to mind:

"Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa"

While the article voices some complaints (which, as an insider, appear to have some validity), the comments are generally not whiny, so I'm not sure what you're reacting to.

nereo

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they're complaining that the (insanely high) base pay and bonuses have declined when compared to inflation.
How much are they billing ?
If they are bringing in $10M in fees and being paid $200K then they are being underpaid.
This is the kind of thinking that gets us into cycles of corruption, greed and wealth disparity.  When compensation is tied more to profits than actual work accomplished the emphasis shifts from providing a service to charging fees.  Suddenly chasing fees is more important than managing risk, individuals think earning 7 figures is 'fair' and attempts at regulation and managing this risk is an unfair burden on them.

nobodyspecial

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When compensation is tied more to profits than actual work accomplished the emphasis shifts from providing a service to charging fees.
Work is about making a profit.
If you don't make a profit you go bust and ( unless you have paid enough politicians to be bailled out) you close down.
If you work on a car assembly line, then you have to build cars worth 10x your salary to make a profit. If you earn more than this the company goes bust and closes (unless you are GM). It doesn't matter how good your work is, or how much you deserve to be paid.

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individuals think earning 7 figures is 'fair' and attempts at regulation and managing this risk is an unfair burden on them.
If you can make enough money for an employer that it is worth them paying you that to prevent you going somewhere else, or workign for yourself than that is a perfectly efficent fair pay. A lot more fair than a union assembly line job which loses money for the company, wipes out the shareholders and needs state and federal aid to keep the plant running at a loss.


Tjat

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I think there's a big difference between complaining about your 160k+ income and complaining that over time you notice that your inflation adjusted earnings are decreasing over time. No matter how much someone makes, I don't think they'd be happy with pay decreases.

That's equivalent to criticizing someone with a $1 million Vanguard balance complaining that they lost money in an index fund when other people only have 40k saved up. Whining about people that make a lot of money seems more complainey-pants to me.

onlykelsey

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Re: Herein, people making $160k+ a year complain about bonuses not being enough
« Reply #10 on: December 24, 2015, 07:33:10 AM »
*They could be billing more or less than $400 per hour depending on the city and the years of experience of the associate. There are some attorneys on this forum that actually work that kind of job so they could give a decent estimate.

I am class of 2011 and believe my billing rate is $825.  My paralegal bills out for around 400.  I bill about 2500 collected hours for the firm, so bring in, say, $ 2 million annually.  Obviously they have to pay real estate and support staff and insurance and all of that, but they make a killing on young associates' 80 hour weeks (and subsequent breakdowns).  I always viewed bonuses (which, in the first three years of practice, were 0, 10 and 10K) as combat pay, especially after seeing a friend and colleague drop dead at 34 of a heart attack, and a 40 year old colleague kill himself all in the first year of practice.   

Obviously if you're expecting a huge bonus and plan your life around spending it, and then are disappointed, you're an idiot.  But with an expected lifespan of 4 or 5 years in biglaw, it's important to remember these are not career-long comp numbers.

FIREby35

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Re: Herein, people making $160k+ a year complain about bonuses not being enough
« Reply #11 on: December 24, 2015, 07:42:55 AM »
*They could be billing more or less than $400 per hour depending on the city and the years of experience of the associate. There are some attorneys on this forum that actually work that kind of job so they could give a decent estimate.

I am class of 2011 and believe my billing rate is $825.  My paralegal bills out for around 400.  I bill about 2500 collected hours for the firm, so bring in, say, $ 2 million annually.  Obviously they have to pay real estate and support staff and insurance and all of that, but they make a killing on young associates' 80 hour weeks (and subsequent breakdowns).  I always viewed bonuses (which, in the first three years of practice, were 0, 10 and 10K) as combat pay, especially after seeing a friend and colleague drop dead at 34 of a heart attack, and a 40 year old colleague kill himself all in the first year of practice.   

Obviously if you're expecting a huge bonus and plan your life around spending it, and then are disappointed, you're an idiot.  But with an expected lifespan of 4 or 5 years in biglaw, it's important to remember these are not career-long comp numbers.

I run my own Solo, Plaintiff firm. Please, don't work yourself to death. It doesn't have to be that way.

Merry Christmas.

Louisville

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Re: Herein, people making $160k+ a year complain about bonuses not being enough
« Reply #12 on: December 24, 2015, 07:54:29 AM »
*They could be billing more or less than $400 per hour depending on the city and the years of experience of the associate. There are some attorneys on this forum that actually work that kind of job so they could give a decent estimate.

I am class of 2011 and believe my billing rate is $825.  My paralegal bills out for around 400.  I bill about 2500 collected hours for the firm, so bring in, say, $ 2 million annually.  Obviously they have to pay real estate and support staff and insurance and all of that, but they make a killing on young associates' 80 hour weeks (and subsequent breakdowns).  I always viewed bonuses (which, in the first three years of practice, were 0, 10 and 10K) as combat pay, especially after seeing a friend and colleague drop dead at 34 of a heart attack, and a 40 year old colleague kill himself all in the first year of practice.   

Obviously if you're expecting a huge bonus and plan your life around spending it, and then are disappointed, you're an idiot.  But with an expected lifespan of 4 or 5 years in biglaw, it's important to remember these are not career-long comp numbers.
80 hour weeks. Why on earth would anyone sign up for that? Ever? What is being gained that's worth eating up that much of your precious, very finite time on earth?

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Re: Herein, people making $160k+ a year complain about bonuses not being enough
« Reply #13 on: December 24, 2015, 07:55:33 AM »
As one member so rightly quoted, "You don't get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate", and what you can negotiate depends on the market.  Law firms (or any other employer) fighting over a few graduates will drive salaries up, and a glut of graduates will drive salaries down.  Demand and supply economics at its finest.  Plain and simple.  The only thing "unfair" in my mind is being compensated below market, in which case you can negotiate a raise or change jobs to correct it (I have done both).  Inflation has nothing to do with it, and using that argument has never improved my compensation.   

FIREby35

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Re: Herein, people making $160k+ a year complain about bonuses not being enough
« Reply #14 on: December 24, 2015, 06:16:14 PM »
*They could be billing more or less than $400 per hour depending on the city and the years of experience of the associate. There are some attorneys on this forum that actually work that kind of job so they could give a decent estimate.

I am class of 2011 and believe my billing rate is $825.  My paralegal bills out for around 400.  I bill about 2500 collected hours for the firm, so bring in, say, $ 2 million annually.  Obviously they have to pay real estate and support staff and insurance and all of that, but they make a killing on young associates' 80 hour weeks (and subsequent breakdowns).  I always viewed bonuses (which, in the first three years of practice, were 0, 10 and 10K) as combat pay, especially after seeing a friend and colleague drop dead at 34 of a heart attack, and a 40 year old colleague kill himself all in the first year of practice.   

Obviously if you're expecting a huge bonus and plan your life around spending it, and then are disappointed, you're an idiot.  But with an expected lifespan of 4 or 5 years in biglaw, it's important to remember these are not career-long comp numbers.
80 hour weeks. Why on earth would anyone sign up for that? Ever? What is being gained that's worth eating up that much of your precious, very finite time on earth?

You might also note that he was talking about BILLING 80 hours a week which implies working some unbilled hours. Law: full of over achievers reaching for the brass ring without ever asking why.

Travis

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Re: Herein, people making $160k+ a year complain about bonuses not being enough
« Reply #15 on: December 24, 2015, 09:28:42 PM »
I think there's a big difference between complaining about your 160k+ income and complaining that over time you notice that your inflation adjusted earnings are decreasing over time. No matter how much someone makes, I don't think they'd be happy with pay decreases.

That's equivalent to criticizing someone with a $1 million Vanguard balance complaining that they lost money in an index fund when other people only have 40k saved up. Whining about people that make a lot of money seems more complainey-pants to me.

How does a bonus system work?  I've never worked in a field that offers one, and I don't quite get how a "bonus" is predictable and expected part of your compensation.  People talk about bonuses in the same terms they'd use to describe their salaries, but if that's so why are they different?  Is it based on individual performance? Company performance?  Is the amount spelled out in an employment contract?  My ignorant gut reaction wants to say "It's a bonus, be happy with what you got."  Salaries and wages are periodically brought back into balance with inflation, but are bonuses supposed to be as well?

nobodyspecial

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Re: Herein, people making $160k+ a year complain about bonuses not being enough
« Reply #16 on: December 24, 2015, 10:04:18 PM »
Quote
How does a bonus system work?
Depends on the industry.
In everything is about the money jobs - merchant banks / trading - it can be 50%-100% of the years salary, the main reason for not simply doubling the base is to give you leverage over the staff. In practice it's a bit decisive, if you give somebody less than they expect it's equivalent to firing them, give somebody a huge bonus and they quit to go somewhere else because they are obviously so valuable.

In boom-bust industries like oil/mining it lets you give everyone a raise in good years without that becoming a salary (+pension) baseline in bad years.

In tech (where I work) I have a budget to reward my team, alongside the budget for training and conferences. I generally just share it out - unless someone invented something that is going to be outstanding.


 

shuffler

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Re: Herein, people making $160k+ a year complain about bonuses not being enough
« Reply #17 on: December 24, 2015, 10:05:31 PM »
How does a bonus system work?
It's different in different companies/industries.
(Most of the rest of my replies are based on my own experience.)

Quote
I've never worked in a field that offers one, and I don't quite get how a "bonus" is predictable and expected part of your compensation. 
It simply is predictable.  In my company's case, under-performers (a relatively small percent of employees) get no bonus, most get something similar to the bonus you got last year (perhaps scaled up a bit if you got a promotion in the meantime), and if you did something especially awesome you might expect a larger bonus.
So people do predict it, at least in terms of round numbers, and do count on it.

(Note that "count" on it just means it's part of their expectation.  Perhaps some people spend it, but I "count on it" as contributing towards my FIRE plans.)

Quote
People talk about bonuses in the same terms they'd use to describe their salaries, but if that's so why are they different?
You're guaranteed to get your salary.
The bonus is discretionary.  It's predictable (as above), but still technically discretionary.

Quote
Is it based on individual performance? Company performance?
In my case, as above, it's based on individual performance.
A buddy of mine in the same industry has his bonus (and those of his co-workers) based on company performance.

Quote
Is the amount spelled out in an employment contract? 
No.

Quote
My ignorant gut reaction wants to say "It's a bonus, be happy with what you got."
Most people, given a certain thing repeatedly for years as part of compensation, would be displeased if it were unexpected no longer being given to them.  Or were significantly smaller than what had been given in the past.  It's just human nature.

Quote
Salaries and wages are periodically brought back into balance with inflation, but are bonuses supposed to be as well?
Yes.  Otherwise your total compensation declines from year to year.

As said by others earlier, it's pretty reasonable (or at least common) to complain when you get a salary cut.  Even if you're making $160k.
It would be much less reasonable to say "$160k isn't enough to get by in this world", but that really isn't what's being said in the article.

Travis

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Re: Herein, people making $160k+ a year complain about bonuses not being enough
« Reply #18 on: December 24, 2015, 10:53:03 PM »
Thanks for the education.  Rereading the article (and especially the comments) there seems to be quite the discussion about the overall compensation packages for these attorneys.  Without knowing anything else about the industry, I can see someone complaining that the base salary not changing in almost 10 years as a bad thing. On the other hand, several commenters argue that this starting salary is above what someone one year out of school is barely worth anyways, but is necessary to hook them in and keep them working to the bone.  From what little I know of the law industry and especially BigLaw I can see where folks would be upset with a significant part of their compensation being toyed with - particularly in such a fast-burning line of work with such high prerequisites to entry.  After putting in that much work just to get started and even more hours during the work week your life probably revolves around that paycheck and convincing yourself all the stress and hard work is worth it.

Tabaxus

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Re: Herein, people making $160k+ a year complain about bonuses not being enough
« Reply #19 on: December 25, 2015, 02:11:44 PM »
Interesting comments here.  I'm in this line of work, so I'm not just gawking at the silly lawyers.  Well, I am, but I'm included in the group.

I marvel every time I get a paycheck because I grew up in a scenario where people put in 80 hours a week of physical work (waiting tables etc) and it would have taken them 3 years to make what I'll see on my bonus check this year.  I just can't wrap my head around people who can manage to think that they aren't blessed to have this job. If you do it right, even coming out with student loans, you can have a few hundred thousand dollars saved within the 4-5 year timeframe many people look at.  I'm not impressed by the inflation arguments, because salaries increased in a way that far outpaced inflation to get to their current baseline, and didn't dramatically tank in 2008-2009 like many other industries did.  For those of us that are fortunate enough to have these jobs, we've fared incredibly well.

As far as the hours go,  80 billed a week is an exaggeration.  There are certainly 80 hour weeks, but no one averages that level. That is 4000 billed hours in a year.  I've never known anyone to get anywhere near that.  That said, the hours are certainly long.   3000-3100 isn't unheard of, and that's certainly brutal, but no one averages 80 a week, and even 3000 is very much on the high end.  Mid-2000s is more common.

NorCal

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Re: Herein, people making $160k+ a year complain about bonuses not being enough
« Reply #20 on: December 25, 2015, 04:56:36 PM »
My wife works in BigLaw.  It's interesting, as we're both grateful and complainers about the bonus system.

The bonuses are absolutely good money, and have been a good help towards ER plans.  How the bonus system is structured is highly annoying and benefits firms more than employees.  I'd personally rather see higher base salaries and no bonus, or a "per billed hour" rate for work over a certain threshold.  The way it's structured today, a "bonus" is just part of normal expected comp that you have to stick around a year for.

The problem with bonuses is that people take it as a true reflection of their worth.  It's inevitable that the people who get bonuses will compare notes and wonder why someone else got more money than they did.  No matter how big the bonus is, it will still psychologically sting a bit if the person who did the same work at the firm next door gets more. 

And while we are always grateful and appreciative of the financial rewards we get, given the hours and crap my wife has dealt with as a senior associate, the "bonus" is absolutely an expected part of regular compensation.

FIREby35

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Re: Herein, people making $160k+ a year complain about bonuses not being enough
« Reply #21 on: December 25, 2015, 06:13:55 PM »
Interesting comments here.  I'm in this line of work, so I'm not just gawking at the silly lawyers.  Well, I am, but I'm included in the group.

I marvel every time I get a paycheck because I grew up in a scenario where people put in 80 hours a week of physical work (waiting tables etc) and it would have taken them 3 years to make what I'll see on my bonus check this year.  I just can't wrap my head around people who can manage to think that they aren't blessed to have this job. If you do it right, even coming out with student loans, you can have a few hundred thousand dollars saved within the 4-5 year timeframe many people look at.  I'm not impressed by the inflation arguments, because salaries increased in a way that far outpaced inflation to get to their current baseline, and didn't dramatically tank in 2008-2009 like many other industries did.  For those of us that are fortunate enough to have these jobs, we've fared incredibly well.

As far as the hours go,  80 billed a week is an exaggeration.  There are certainly 80 hour weeks, but no one averages that level. That is 4000 billed hours in a year.  I've never known anyone to get anywhere near that.  That said, the hours are certainly long.   3000-3100 isn't unheard of, and that's certainly brutal, but no one averages 80 a week, and even 3000 is very much on the high end.  Mid-2000s is more common.

You are right about billing 80, I got a little carried away.  But, I'm not a big law billable hour attorney. I can easily lose perspective since the entire billable hour scheme seems crazy to me. :)

dragoncar

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Re: Herein, people making $160k+ a year complain about bonuses not being enough
« Reply #22 on: December 25, 2015, 11:09:05 PM »
Interesting comments here.  I'm in this line of work, so I'm not just gawking at the silly lawyers.  Well, I am, but I'm included in the group.

I marvel every time I get a paycheck because I grew up in a scenario where people put in 80 hours a week of physical work (waiting tables etc) and it would have taken them 3 years to make what I'll see on my bonus check this year.  I just can't wrap my head around people who can manage to think that they aren't blessed to have this job. If you do it right, even coming out with student loans, you can have a few hundred thousand dollars saved within the 4-5 year timeframe many people look at.  I'm not impressed by the inflation arguments, because salaries increased in a way that far outpaced inflation to get to their current baseline, and didn't dramatically tank in 2008-2009 like many other industries did.  For those of us that are fortunate enough to have these jobs, we've fared incredibly well.

As far as the hours go,  80 billed a week is an exaggeration.  There are certainly 80 hour weeks, but no one averages that level. That is 4000 billed hours in a year.  I've never known anyone to get anywhere near that.  That said, the hours are certainly long.   3000-3100 isn't unheard of, and that's certainly brutal, but no one averages 80 a week, and even 3000 is very much on the high end.  Mid-2000s is more common.

You are right about billing 80, I got a little carried away.  But, I'm not a big law billable hour attorney. I can easily lose perspective since the entire billable hour scheme seems crazy to me. :)

I don't know about you losers, but I typically bill 80 hours per day

FIREby35

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Re: Herein, people making $160k+ a year complain about bonuses not being enough
« Reply #23 on: December 26, 2015, 07:20:57 AM »
Interesting comments here.  I'm in this line of work, so I'm not just gawking at the silly lawyers.  Well, I am, but I'm included in the group.

I marvel every time I get a paycheck because I grew up in a scenario where people put in 80 hours a week of physical work (waiting tables etc) and it would have taken them 3 years to make what I'll see on my bonus check this year.  I just can't wrap my head around people who can manage to think that they aren't blessed to have this job. If you do it right, even coming out with student loans, you can have a few hundred thousand dollars saved within the 4-5 year timeframe many people look at.  I'm not impressed by the inflation arguments, because salaries increased in a way that far outpaced inflation to get to their current baseline, and didn't dramatically tank in 2008-2009 like many other industries did.  For those of us that are fortunate enough to have these jobs, we've fared incredibly well.

As far as the hours go,  80 billed a week is an exaggeration.  There are certainly 80 hour weeks, but no one averages that level. That is 4000 billed hours in a year.  I've never known anyone to get anywhere near that.  That said, the hours are certainly long.   3000-3100 isn't unheard of, and that's certainly brutal, but no one averages 80 a week, and even 3000 is very much on the high end.  Mid-2000s is more common.

You are right about billing 80, I got a little carried away.  But, I'm not a big law billable hour attorney. I can easily lose perspective since the entire billable hour scheme seems crazy to me. :)

I don't know about you losers, but I typically bill 80 hours per day

Only 80? Your bonus will reflect your lack of dedication!

Tabaxus

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Re: Herein, people making $160k+ a year complain about bonuses not being enough
« Reply #24 on: December 26, 2015, 09:35:46 AM »
Interesting comments here.  I'm in this line of work, so I'm not just gawking at the silly lawyers.  Well, I am, but I'm included in the group.

I marvel every time I get a paycheck because I grew up in a scenario where people put in 80 hours a week of physical work (waiting tables etc) and it would have taken them 3 years to make what I'll see on my bonus check this year.  I just can't wrap my head around people who can manage to think that they aren't blessed to have this job. If you do it right, even coming out with student loans, you can have a few hundred thousand dollars saved within the 4-5 year timeframe many people look at.  I'm not impressed by the inflation arguments, because salaries increased in a way that far outpaced inflation to get to their current baseline, and didn't dramatically tank in 2008-2009 like many other industries did.  For those of us that are fortunate enough to have these jobs, we've fared incredibly well.

As far as the hours go,  80 billed a week is an exaggeration.  There are certainly 80 hour weeks, but no one averages that level. That is 4000 billed hours in a year.  I've never known anyone to get anywhere near that.  That said, the hours are certainly long.   3000-3100 isn't unheard of, and that's certainly brutal, but no one averages 80 a week, and even 3000 is very much on the high end.  Mid-2000s is more common.

You are right about billing 80, I got a little carried away.  But, I'm not a big law billable hour attorney. I can easily lose perspective since the entire billable hour scheme seems crazy to me. :)

I don't know about you losers, but I typically bill 80 hours per day

Ha.  A few years ago, some attorney got into ethics problems because they billed more than 24 hours in a single day on multiple occasions.

dragoncar

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Re: Herein, people making $160k+ a year complain about bonuses not being enough
« Reply #25 on: December 26, 2015, 12:15:00 PM »
Interesting comments here.  I'm in this line of work, so I'm not just gawking at the silly lawyers.  Well, I am, but I'm included in the group.

I marvel every time I get a paycheck because I grew up in a scenario where people put in 80 hours a week of physical work (waiting tables etc) and it would have taken them 3 years to make what I'll see on my bonus check this year.  I just can't wrap my head around people who can manage to think that they aren't blessed to have this job. If you do it right, even coming out with student loans, you can have a few hundred thousand dollars saved within the 4-5 year timeframe many people look at.  I'm not impressed by the inflation arguments, because salaries increased in a way that far outpaced inflation to get to their current baseline, and didn't dramatically tank in 2008-2009 like many other industries did.  For those of us that are fortunate enough to have these jobs, we've fared incredibly well.

As far as the hours go,  80 billed a week is an exaggeration.  There are certainly 80 hour weeks, but no one averages that level. That is 4000 billed hours in a year.  I've never known anyone to get anywhere near that.  That said, the hours are certainly long.   3000-3100 isn't unheard of, and that's certainly brutal, but no one averages 80 a week, and even 3000 is very much on the high end.  Mid-2000s is more common.

You are right about billing 80, I got a little carried away.  But, I'm not a big law billable hour attorney. I can easily lose perspective since the entire billable hour scheme seems crazy to me. :)

I don't know about you losers, but I typically bill 80 hours per day

Ha.  A few years ago, some attorney got into ethics problems because they billed more than 24 hours in a single day on multiple occasions.

I guess if you signed 360 letters for different matters in one day, at one minute per letter, it would take you 6 hours but you would bill 360*.1=36 hours.  Not sure if there's an ethical problem with rounding up to the nearest .1, but I understand most firms do this

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Re: Herein, people making $160k+ a year complain about bonuses not being enough
« Reply #26 on: December 26, 2015, 12:33:30 PM »
Interesting comments here.  I'm in this line of work, so I'm not just gawking at the silly lawyers.  Well, I am, but I'm included in the group.

I marvel every time I get a paycheck because I grew up in a scenario where people put in 80 hours a week of physical work (waiting tables etc) and it would have taken them 3 years to make what I'll see on my bonus check this year.  I just can't wrap my head around people who can manage to think that they aren't blessed to have this job. If you do it right, even coming out with student loans, you can have a few hundred thousand dollars saved within the 4-5 year timeframe many people look at.  I'm not impressed by the inflation arguments, because salaries increased in a way that far outpaced inflation to get to their current baseline, and didn't dramatically tank in 2008-2009 like many other industries did.  For those of us that are fortunate enough to have these jobs, we've fared incredibly well.

As far as the hours go,  80 billed a week is an exaggeration.  There are certainly 80 hour weeks, but no one averages that level. That is 4000 billed hours in a year.  I've never known anyone to get anywhere near that.  That said, the hours are certainly long.   3000-3100 isn't unheard of, and that's certainly brutal, but no one averages 80 a week, and even 3000 is very much on the high end.  Mid-2000s is more common.

You are right about billing 80, I got a little carried away.  But, I'm not a big law billable hour attorney. I can easily lose perspective since the entire billable hour scheme seems crazy to me. :)

I don't know about you losers, but I typically bill 80 hours per day

Ha.  A few years ago, some attorney got into ethics problems because they billed more than 24 hours in a single day on multiple occasions.

I guess if you signed 360 letters for different matters in one day, at one minute per letter, it would take you 6 hours but you would bill 360*.1=36 hours.  Not sure if there's an ethical problem with rounding up to the nearest .1, but I understand most firms do this

All depends on how the firm bills its time.  My sister's law firm bills in 15 minute intervals.

dragoncar

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Re: Herein, people making $160k+ a year complain about bonuses not being enough
« Reply #27 on: December 26, 2015, 06:56:23 PM »
Interesting comments here.  I'm in this line of work, so I'm not just gawking at the silly lawyers.  Well, I am, but I'm included in the group.

I marvel every time I get a paycheck because I grew up in a scenario where people put in 80 hours a week of physical work (waiting tables etc) and it would have taken them 3 years to make what I'll see on my bonus check this year.  I just can't wrap my head around people who can manage to think that they aren't blessed to have this job. If you do it right, even coming out with student loans, you can have a few hundred thousand dollars saved within the 4-5 year timeframe many people look at.  I'm not impressed by the inflation arguments, because salaries increased in a way that far outpaced inflation to get to their current baseline, and didn't dramatically tank in 2008-2009 like many other industries did.  For those of us that are fortunate enough to have these jobs, we've fared incredibly well.

As far as the hours go,  80 billed a week is an exaggeration.  There are certainly 80 hour weeks, but no one averages that level. That is 4000 billed hours in a year.  I've never known anyone to get anywhere near that.  That said, the hours are certainly long.   3000-3100 isn't unheard of, and that's certainly brutal, but no one averages 80 a week, and even 3000 is very much on the high end.  Mid-2000s is more common.

You are right about billing 80, I got a little carried away.  But, I'm not a big law billable hour attorney. I can easily lose perspective since the entire billable hour scheme seems crazy to me. :)

I don't know about you losers, but I typically bill 80 hours per day

Ha.  A few years ago, some attorney got into ethics problems because they billed more than 24 hours in a single day on multiple occasions.

I guess if you signed 360 letters for different matters in one day, at one minute per letter, it would take you 6 hours but you would bill 360*.1=36 hours.  Not sure if there's an ethical problem with rounding up to the nearest .1, but I understand most firms do this

All depends on how the firm bills its time.  My sister's law firm bills in 15 minute intervals.

Ok then that's 90 hours in a day... Doesn't really change the underlying issue

Travis

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Re: Herein, people making $160k+ a year complain about bonuses not being enough
« Reply #28 on: December 27, 2015, 12:15:54 AM »
Interesting comments here.  I'm in this line of work, so I'm not just gawking at the silly lawyers.  Well, I am, but I'm included in the group.

I marvel every time I get a paycheck because I grew up in a scenario where people put in 80 hours a week of physical work (waiting tables etc) and it would have taken them 3 years to make what I'll see on my bonus check this year.  I just can't wrap my head around people who can manage to think that they aren't blessed to have this job. If you do it right, even coming out with student loans, you can have a few hundred thousand dollars saved within the 4-5 year timeframe many people look at.  I'm not impressed by the inflation arguments, because salaries increased in a way that far outpaced inflation to get to their current baseline, and didn't dramatically tank in 2008-2009 like many other industries did.  For those of us that are fortunate enough to have these jobs, we've fared incredibly well.

As far as the hours go,  80 billed a week is an exaggeration.  There are certainly 80 hour weeks, but no one averages that level. That is 4000 billed hours in a year.  I've never known anyone to get anywhere near that.  That said, the hours are certainly long.   3000-3100 isn't unheard of, and that's certainly brutal, but no one averages 80 a week, and even 3000 is very much on the high end.  Mid-2000s is more common.

You are right about billing 80, I got a little carried away.  But, I'm not a big law billable hour attorney. I can easily lose perspective since the entire billable hour scheme seems crazy to me. :)

I don't know about you losers, but I typically bill 80 hours per day

Ha.  A few years ago, some attorney got into ethics problems because they billed more than 24 hours in a single day on multiple occasions.

I guess if you signed 360 letters for different matters in one day, at one minute per letter, it would take you 6 hours but you would bill 360*.1=36 hours.  Not sure if there's an ethical problem with rounding up to the nearest .1, but I understand most firms do this

All depends on how the firm bills its time.  My sister's law firm bills in 15 minute intervals.

Ok then that's 90 hours in a day... Doesn't really change the underlying issue

Took me a few readings to realize what you were getting at (using the same billing period for multiple clients).  I'll have to ask her what that situation would look like.

dude

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Re: Herein, people making $160k+ a year complain about bonuses not being enough
« Reply #29 on: December 28, 2015, 06:32:27 AM »
*They could be billing more or less than $400 per hour depending on the city and the years of experience of the associate. There are some attorneys on this forum that actually work that kind of job so they could give a decent estimate.

I am class of 2011 and believe my billing rate is $825.  My paralegal bills out for around 400.  I bill about 2500 collected hours for the firm, so bring in, say, $ 2 million annually.  Obviously they have to pay real estate and support staff and insurance and all of that, but they make a killing on young associates' 80 hour weeks (and subsequent breakdowns).  I always viewed bonuses (which, in the first three years of practice, were 0, 10 and 10K) as combat pay, especially after seeing a friend and colleague drop dead at 34 of a heart attack, and a 40 year old colleague kill himself all in the first year of practice.   

Obviously if you're expecting a huge bonus and plan your life around spending it, and then are disappointed, you're an idiot.  But with an expected lifespan of 4 or 5 years in biglaw, it's important to remember these are not career-long comp numbers.
80 hour weeks. Why on earth would anyone sign up for that? Ever? What is being gained that's worth eating up that much of your precious, very finite time on earth?

For many folks I know (fellow law school grads), the answer is:  the opportunity to pay off those exorbitant student loans.  Once that is done, many other options become available, like going in-house, hanging a shingle, or moving out of law altogether (one friend ended up in private equity, another at hedge funds).

onlykelsey

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Re: Herein, people making $160k+ a year complain about bonuses not being enough
« Reply #30 on: December 28, 2015, 08:14:12 AM »
80 hour weeks. Why on earth would anyone sign up for that? Ever? What is being gained that's worth eating up that much of your precious, very finite time on earth?
For many folks I know (fellow law school grads), the answer is:  the opportunity to pay off those exorbitant student loans.  Once that is done, many other options become available, like going in-house, hanging a shingle, or moving out of law altogether (one friend ended up in private equity, another at hedge funds).
[/quote]

To be fair, they don't exactly advertise it that way.  I paid off my loans very quickly and stuck around for a variety of reasons, some more defensible than others.  Chiefly, I think lawyers are conservative people by nature who don't like change, and like working in a predictable hierarchy.  I don't think that's a great way to live your life, but it definitely plays in to why so many of us are still here.  I haven't gotten too bad with golden handcuffs (I save ~40% of what I take home, but just found this site a month ago), but that's a big reason for lots of folks.   I actually do a LOT of very interesting work for top tier clients that I wouldn't have access to at a smaller or less competitive firm.  I think a lot of us would take a 35 hour version of this job for half the salary, but practicing law for international corporations and hedge/private equity/credit funds doesn't seem to scale down well.  For me, it's not the number of hours that kills me, it's the absolute unpredictability and constant on-call status.  Probably I have some underlying anxiety issues, but I rarely sleep more than 3 hours without jumping out of bed in a panic reaching for my phone in case I missed an email.

For me I think I'm looking at a two-year time frame to get out, and will be saving obsessively and taking advantages of the perks in the interim.  Maybe I'll pitch a part-time version of my position in two years and see if the firm bites, but I don't really expect them to, so I'm working on alternative plans.

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Re: Herein, people making $160k+ a year complain about bonuses not being enough
« Reply #31 on: December 28, 2015, 10:43:00 AM »
Not sure if there's an ethical problem with rounding up to the nearest .1, but I understand most firms do this

Here's a brief ABA article addressing that topic:  "ABA Ethics Tip of the Month:  Give the Max for the Minimum."

What it doesn't address, though, is time dilation.  If my client and I are moving relative to each other and/or differently situated from a gravitational mass or masses, should I bill for the time that elapsed from my own perspective or from my client's?

Rosbif

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Re: Herein, people making $160k+ a year complain about bonuses not being enough
« Reply #32 on: December 28, 2015, 11:40:18 AM »
"Biglaw: a pie-eating competition in which the first prize is more pie." -- me. I decided I didn't like pie.

onlykelsey

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Re: Herein, people making $160k+ a year complain about bonuses not being enough
« Reply #33 on: December 28, 2015, 11:55:18 AM »
Rosbif: So true. Now that you've proven you will forsake all personal relationships and your health in order to please your overlords, you now get... even more responsibility!  Congratulations!

Tabaxus

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Re: Herein, people making $160k+ a year complain about bonuses not being enough
« Reply #34 on: December 28, 2015, 02:08:55 PM »
Rosbif: So true. Now that you've proven you will forsake all personal relationships and your health in order to please your overlords, you now get... even more responsibility!  Congratulations!

Even more responsibility and over a million a year, if you make it all the way.  Very few people do, of course, but one can't say that it's not without an upside. 

Of course, many of us around here might manage to put enough away to FIRE before we even make it to the "up-or-out" stage!  Assuming base payscale and bonus scale stay about the same as they are now and the stock market stays flat, I think I'd make it over the $1M mark somewhere around year 8 or 9... so right at the line, after starting at -200.

MgoSam

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Re: Herein, people making $160k+ a year complain about bonuses not being enough
« Reply #35 on: December 28, 2015, 02:19:30 PM »
"Biglaw: a pie-eating competition in which the first prize is more pie." -- me. I decided I didn't like pie.

I'm glad that you discovered this by yourself. Most people that get a good salary, let's say $80k, will be happy for a moment and then want more. I imagine that's the case on Wall Street and among high-powered lawyers. I feel like none of them are every happy, they are constantly on a financial treadmill, hoping that eventually they can hop off. For some of them, hopping off only occurs when they get a heart attack or another health issue, or are forced into retirement (sometimes involuntarily).

onlykelsey

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Re: Herein, people making $160k+ a year complain about bonuses not being enough
« Reply #36 on: December 28, 2015, 02:28:23 PM »
Rosbif: So true. Now that you've proven you will forsake all personal relationships and your health in order to please your overlords, you now get... even more responsibility!  Congratulations!

Even more responsibility and over a million a year, if you make it all the way.  Very few people do, of course, but one can't say that it's not without an upside. 

Of course, many of us around here might manage to put enough away to FIRE before we even make it to the "up-or-out" stage!  Assuming base payscale and bonus scale stay about the same as they are now and the stock market stays flat, I think I'd make it over the $1M mark somewhere around year 8 or 9... so right at the line, after starting at -200.

Ditto.  I think I'll the plug before then, though.  I'm happy to put off full FI for a few years once I hit, say, 600 or 700K.  Especially given the gains in mental health I'm expecting, haha.

LeRainDrop

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Re: Herein, people making $160k+ a year complain about bonuses not being enough
« Reply #37 on: December 28, 2015, 08:09:39 PM »
"Biglaw: a pie-eating competition in which the first prize is more pie." -- me. I decided I didn't like pie.

I'm glad that you discovered this by yourself. Most people that get a good salary, let's say $80k, will be happy for a moment and then want more. I imagine that's the case on Wall Street and among high-powered lawyers. I feel like none of them are every happy, they are constantly on a financial treadmill, hoping that eventually they can hop off. For some of them, hopping off only occurs when they get a heart attack or another health issue, or are forced into retirement (sometimes involuntarily).

Yup, plenty of stories here about attorneys having heart attacks or passing out at work, a young friend with a collapsed lung, another young friend having a stroke, etc.  The most recent one is a very highly-regarded partner, my mentor, being diagnosed with terminal cancer in his late 50s.  He had been having concerning symptoms, and on the very day he and his wife were flying out to buy a retirement home, his primary doctor told him he needed to cancel his trip and instead check into Mayo for additional testing -- and within a week, the diagnosis.  That, plus many other experiences in the last couple years of BigLaw, especially suffocating under an abusive, bullying partner, have recently made me decide there is no chance in hell that I want to be a partner here, and I want to get out sooner rather than later.  There have been a few times that I have seriously considered just quitting.  I'm not where I want to be for FIRE, but I sure have plenty of cushion to get out of dodge for awhile if need be.

Tabaxus

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Re: Herein, people making $160k+ a year complain about bonuses not being enough
« Reply #38 on: December 28, 2015, 08:23:45 PM »
There is definitely something empowering about knowing that, standing today, if I didn't work at all, I could last 5 or 6 years if Thursday was the last day I went into work (gotta get that year end bonus, and then I'll be at about 300k without attacking the 401k...).  I could use that mental health time... but I'd end up flipping burgers at the end of the vacation, heh.

(... And the divorce would cut into the freedom time!)

FIREby35

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Re: Herein, people making $160k+ a year complain about bonuses not being enough
« Reply #39 on: December 28, 2015, 09:12:09 PM »
"Biglaw: a pie-eating competition in which the first prize is more pie." -- me. I decided I didn't like pie.

Where is this from? I said the EXACT same thing back in law school.

After my 1L year, I got the Big Law clerkship. At the same time, I was given the "honor" of being on law review (at my school, it was based purely on your percentile in the class and there is no application). At first, I was over the moon. By the end of the summer watching so many at the firm be miserable and doing all the citations for some out of town law professors I would never meet, I'd had enough "pie." I declined the Big Law clerkship for the next year, quit law review, and moved to Mexico (for a year) so I could become fluent in Spanish. I resolved to start my own practice and, long story short, that is exactly what I did.

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Re: Herein, people making $160k+ a year complain about bonuses not being enough
« Reply #40 on: December 29, 2015, 02:10:25 AM »
Not sure if there's an ethical problem with rounding up to the nearest .1, but I understand most firms do this

Here's a brief ABA article addressing that topic:  "ABA Ethics Tip of the Month:  Give the Max for the Minimum."

What it doesn't address, though, is time dilation.  If my client and I are moving relative to each other and/or differently situated from a gravitational mass or masses, should I bill for the time that elapsed from my own perspective or from my client's?

I had a problem with time dilation once... not from a lawyer but from a mechanic shop, when someone decided to not only perform unnecessary services, but charge me for labor that never occurred. It was not an issue of movement and mass so much as kicking some ass. No tire irons were involved, but there was public humiliation, by me, of someone who desperately deserved it. Probably a lot of time elapsed from the victim's perspective.

onlykelsey

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Re: Herein, people making $160k+ a year complain about bonuses not being enough
« Reply #41 on: December 29, 2015, 07:36:52 AM »
"Biglaw: a pie-eating competition in which the first prize is more pie." -- me. I decided I didn't like pie.

I'm glad that you discovered this by yourself. Most people that get a good salary, let's say $80k, will be happy for a moment and then want more. I imagine that's the case on Wall Street and among high-powered lawyers. I feel like none of them are every happy, they are constantly on a financial treadmill, hoping that eventually they can hop off. For some of them, hopping off only occurs when they get a heart attack or another health issue, or are forced into retirement (sometimes involuntarily).

Yup, plenty of stories here about attorneys having heart attacks or passing out at work, a young friend with a collapsed lung, another young friend having a stroke, etc.  The most recent one is a very highly-regarded partner, my mentor, being diagnosed with terminal cancer in his late 50s.  He had been having concerning symptoms, and on the very day he and his wife were flying out to buy a retirement home, his primary doctor told him he needed to cancel his trip and instead check into Mayo for additional testing -- and within a week, the diagnosis.  That, plus many other experiences in the last couple years of BigLaw, especially suffocating under an abusive, bullying partner, have recently made me decide there is no chance in hell that I want to be a partner here, and I want to get out sooner rather than later.  There have been a few times that I have seriously considered just quitting.  I'm not where I want to be for FIRE, but I sure have plenty of cushion to get out of dodge for awhile if need be.

Those stories are horrifying.  I feel like the way BigLaw really ruins me is by putting me on a team of generally very nice genuinely smart caring human beings, and then giving the team 2.5x more work than we can accomplish, and moving the goalposts around.  I am acutely aware that if I go home at 1, I'm making someone junior to me pull an all nighter to pick up the slack, so I stick around to 3 myself in order to share the burden.  Even pulling as a team, you really can't ever win, it seems like.

MgoSam

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Re: Herein, people making $160k+ a year complain about bonuses not being enough
« Reply #42 on: December 29, 2015, 09:41:36 AM »
Even pulling as a team, you really can't ever win, it seems like.

Sometimes, that's the point. "The only winning move is not to play" (War Games).

dude

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Re: Herein, people making $160k+ a year complain about bonuses not being enough
« Reply #43 on: December 29, 2015, 09:47:29 AM »
"Biglaw: a pie-eating competition in which the first prize is more pie." -- me. I decided I didn't like pie.

Where is this from? I said the EXACT same thing back in law school.

After my 1L year, I got the Big Law clerkship. At the same time, I was given the "honor" of being on law review (at my school, it was based purely on your percentile in the class and there is no application). At first, I was over the moon. By the end of the summer watching so many at the firm be miserable and doing all the citations for some out of town law professors I would never meet, I'd had enough "pie." I declined the Big Law clerkship for the next year, quit law review, and moved to Mexico (for a year) so I could become fluent in Spanish. I resolved to start my own practice and, long story short, that is exactly what I did.

A friend of mine used to say the same thing, only he said "shit pie"!

I worked my 2L summer in BigLaw.  Got all caught up in the OCI process, and felt like a real big deal after getting feted like an NFL prospect at the Combines!  But that summer I was miserable, even if I was loving the money.  My misery definitely showed, and I did not get an offer to come back --  BEST thing that ever happened to me!  Seriously.  It was hugely liberating, because I would damn well have gone to work for them for the money and been miserable, with all its attendant ill effects on one's health and psyche.  Instead I looked for other opportunities (came very close to going back into the Navy as a JAG officer) and settled with the federal government, and I couldn't be happier with my choice.

mm1970

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Re: Herein, people making $160k+ a year complain about bonuses not being enough
« Reply #44 on: December 29, 2015, 10:21:40 AM »
"Biglaw: a pie-eating competition in which the first prize is more pie." -- me. I decided I didn't like pie.

I'm glad that you discovered this by yourself. Most people that get a good salary, let's say $80k, will be happy for a moment and then want more. I imagine that's the case on Wall Street and among high-powered lawyers. I feel like none of them are every happy, they are constantly on a financial treadmill, hoping that eventually they can hop off. For some of them, hopping off only occurs when they get a heart attack or another health issue, or are forced into retirement (sometimes involuntarily).

Yup, plenty of stories here about attorneys having heart attacks or passing out at work, a young friend with a collapsed lung, another young friend having a stroke, etc.  The most recent one is a very highly-regarded partner, my mentor, being diagnosed with terminal cancer in his late 50s.  He had been having concerning symptoms, and on the very day he and his wife were flying out to buy a retirement home, his primary doctor told him he needed to cancel his trip and instead check into Mayo for additional testing -- and within a week, the diagnosis.  That, plus many other experiences in the last couple years of BigLaw, especially suffocating under an abusive, bullying partner, have recently made me decide there is no chance in hell that I want to be a partner here, and I want to get out sooner rather than later.  There have been a few times that I have seriously considered just quitting.  I'm not where I want to be for FIRE, but I sure have plenty of cushion to get out of dodge for awhile if need be.

Those stories are horrifying.  I feel like the way BigLaw really ruins me is by putting me on a team of generally very nice genuinely smart caring human beings, and then giving the team 2.5x more work than we can accomplish, and moving the goalposts around.  I am acutely aware that if I go home at 1, I'm making someone junior to me pull an all nighter to pick up the slack, so I stick around to 3 myself in order to share the burden.  Even pulling as a team, you really can't ever win, it seems like.
Ugh, my FIL is (was) a lawyer.  He went to Georgetown back in the 60's, drove a taxi to support the family.

He spent a few years in a corporate gig, just long enough to get the experience to hang up his own shingle.  He was miserable.

But what you are saying here, doesn't sound too terribly far off of my area in tech - albeit without the big salaries.  I mean, the salaries are decent but not that great.

Decent human beings, 2.5x more work, moving the goalposts around, lots of blame when timelines aren't met (when the timelines were not realistic).  Except no raises in 4 years on top of that.

Still glad I'm not a lawyer.

nobodyspecial

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Re: Herein, people making $160k+ a year complain about bonuses not being enough
« Reply #45 on: December 29, 2015, 12:58:22 PM »
Doesn't sound too terribly far off of my area in tech - albeit without the big salaries.  I mean, the salaries are decent but not that great.

Decent human beings, 2.5x more work, moving the goalposts around, lots of blame when timelines aren't met (when the timelines were not realistic).  Except no raises in 4 years on top of that.

Still glad I'm not a lawyer.
At least lawyers don't have to FIRE because nobody would hire a 35year old lawyer
 

onlykelsey

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Re: Herein, people making $160k+ a year complain about bonuses not being enough
« Reply #46 on: December 29, 2015, 01:22:36 PM »
At least lawyers don't have to FIRE because nobody would hire a 35year old lawyer

For all its warts, that is one of the reasons I went in to law.  Age and seniority is more valued that in other fields, at least to a certain point.

mm1970

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Re: Herein, people making $160k+ a year complain about bonuses not being enough
« Reply #47 on: December 29, 2015, 04:36:01 PM »
Doesn't sound too terribly far off of my area in tech - albeit without the big salaries.  I mean, the salaries are decent but not that great.

Decent human beings, 2.5x more work, moving the goalposts around, lots of blame when timelines aren't met (when the timelines were not realistic).  Except no raises in 4 years on top of that.

Still glad I'm not a lawyer.
At least lawyers don't have to FIRE because nobody would hire a 35year old lawyer
True.  At least in my area of tech, you can get hired pretty easily in your 40s if you are male.
Sometimes into your 50s.

Good luck if you are female though.  40-45 seems to be the cutoff.

dragoncar

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Re: Herein, people making $160k+ a year complain about bonuses not being enough
« Reply #48 on: December 29, 2015, 08:31:05 PM »
Not sure if there's an ethical problem with rounding up to the nearest .1, but I understand most firms do this

Here's a brief ABA article addressing that topic:  "ABA Ethics Tip of the Month:  Give the Max for the Minimum."

What it doesn't address, though, is time dilation.  If my client and I are moving relative to each other and/or differently situated from a gravitational mass or masses, should I bill for the time that elapsed from my own perspective or from my client's?

So basically, as usual, "it depends"