Author Topic: Any biglaw mustachians out there?  (Read 21183 times)

pbj

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Any biglaw mustachians out there?
« on: December 08, 2012, 11:06:21 AM »
Hello all,

I've been reading MMM for a few weeks now and love the posts and comments. I'm especially a big fan of this forum, so I thought I would throw a question out there.

I'm a few years in at a East Coast biglaw firm and am looking to learn something new from my fellow biglaw mustachians. Law school has been paid off, and now I've reached the 401k limit for this year.  For 2013, I'd like to set a yearly savings goal for myself and curious to see how much biglaw mustachians typically save.

I'd also be interested in hearing how living the MMM life balances out with the typical biglaw lifestyle.

icefr

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Re: Any biglaw mustachians out there?
« Reply #1 on: December 08, 2012, 01:01:05 PM »
I work in software, not biglaw, but I grossed ~140k this year and I've been seeing ~20% YOY increases so far in my career and I'm still in my early twenties. This year, I'm forecasting to have saved about $65k including maxing out the 401(k), some taxable, and mostly down payment cash / mortgage paydown post-closing. Next year, I'm looking at saving between $75-95k, depending on how my bonuses end up.

One of the things I remember MMM saying was that he showed up to work dressed somewhat like everyone else, but I'm sure he spent less money on clothes than the rest of his coworkers. I don't buy iPads or the like, I keep my computers for 4+ years and grudgingly replace them. Many of my coworkers have brand-new Audi cars or leased ones. I bought a new car, but it isn't a brand one like that (it's a subcompact). I don't have a collection of Coach purses, though I do get many a compliment on mine that I paid ~$50 for two years ago and I'll use it until the strap falls apart.

So I guess my compromise to "fit in" has been to buy nice things, but hold on to them for a long time or buy shiny, new things that are a lower brand name.

someguy

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Re: Any biglaw mustachians out there?
« Reply #2 on: December 08, 2012, 01:13:21 PM »
What year are you?  That will really guide how much you should save (there's a $40-60k difference between third and fifth year).

I work in biglaw in a major market as well with $210k base + bonus.  The biglaw lifestyle is sometimes incompatible with MMM's preachings (e.g. I spent a LOT more on clothes than he probably does and it's hard to cook at home because of my unpredictable schedule).  That said, you can still save $100k+ per year by the time you're a midlevel.  Anyone who isn't saving at a simliar rate is insane.  I assume because you read this blog that you have little interest in becoming a partner, so you should really be focused on cutting the crap expenses (which for me is eating lunch out daily) to enable you to get out before your soul is completely gone. 

Fitness and health are probably the biggest problems with the job -- and it's no joke (see that Skadden associate who died at her desk).  Take care of yourself and save enough to get out as soon as possible.  My number is $400k and then I walk.
« Last Edit: December 08, 2012, 01:29:22 PM by someguy »

kudy

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Re: Any biglaw mustachians out there?
« Reply #3 on: December 08, 2012, 02:53:36 PM »
Quote
I work in software... I grossed ~140k this year

Damn, when I read this, I think I definitely chose the wrong direction after finishing school... I didn't want to be a code monkey in a cubicle, but I make less than half of your salary.  What level of school did you complete? And if you don't mind saying, what kind of software job do you have?

mm1970

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Re: Any biglaw mustachians out there?
« Reply #4 on: December 08, 2012, 03:41:50 PM »
Quote
I work in software... I grossed ~140k this year

Damn, when I read this, I think I definitely chose the wrong direction after finishing school... I didn't want to be a code monkey in a cubicle, but I make less than half of your salary.  What level of school did you complete? And if you don't mind saying, what kind of software job do you have?
No kidding. I'm in engineering. I could be making that if I really wanted to work 55 hour weeks. But I don't.

someguy

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Re: Any biglaw mustachians out there?
« Reply #5 on: December 08, 2012, 03:59:22 PM »
A few random thoughts on finances and biglaw.  Not all of them are applicable to your particular situation, but I thought I would post them anyway.  You can skip directly to #5.

1.  Save up a $30k emergency fund.  You are more than likely going to be fired or gently asked to leave the firm at some point and you may not be able to find a job for months.  It's not a matter of if you are going to get shown the door; it's a matter of when.

2.  Once you have a cash cushion, pay down high-interest debt as fast as possible.  This is probably your 8.5% Grad Plus loans, of which many graduates have a large amount outstanding.  I would pay these off before even thinking about putting money away.  Some of my friends have $15-18k in interest every year.  It makes me sick just to think about.

3.  Max your 401k once your high-interest debt is paid off.  This should be a given, but inexplicably there are associates who don't do it.  Most of us are paying at least 35%+ of tax on our marginal dollar of earnings, yet people still do not take advantage of this option.  Do not listen to the people telling you a Roth is the way to go.  Don't throw away a 35% gift because "future taxes will be high."

4.  Pay down the rest of your debt with any remaining money.  Do not take any expensive vacations or make any major purchases until this debt is gone. 

5.  Don't get sucked into the golden handcuffs lifestyle.  This is a big problem for some associates.  You are going to be invited to parties at the $2m houses owned by the partners.  You can't afford these.  You can't even afford a $300k condo in Hoboken.  You are like an NFL player with a limited career - you need to accept that.  This is not a "career" that you keep up for decades, so you need to bank as much now as possible.

6.  Don't buy a home while you're in biglaw.  You don't want to be tied to one location when you're looking to lateral into government or go in-house.  Also you will spend very little time actually living in your home, so no point in dropping a ton of money on it and then furnishing it. 

7.  Don't slum too far though.  Assuming you're in Manhattan or a similarly expensive city, you may be tempted to live with a roommate in Queens to save cash.  This works if you're a person that can tolerate adding a lengthy commute on top of an already absurd work day, but be careful you don't add to your already ridiculously high probability of burn-out.  Sure, this works for people who work a 9-5 and are ok with commuting.  But they don't have to work from 9am to 4am, go home, shower and be back in the office by 8am.  You do.  From a financial independence standpoint, you're better off making your job as tolerable as possible and allowing yourself to earn $250,000 for another year of your life.  Saving $500 a month but moving to a crappy living situation may push you over the edge.  It would be nice to move to the suburbs, but it's just not practical for me because the commute would be exhausting after an 18-hour day.  It would make me want to quit my job more than i already do, so I spend a little extra money to stay sane.  Don't spend more than $2k/month and you'll be fine.

8.  Don't sweat the small crap.  Worrying about spending $1 on coffee or $4 on a sandwich that helps you get through the day is pointless. 

9.  Consider the HDHP and contributing to an HSA.  A little extra tax savings for you and you won't have time to go to the doctor anyway.

10.  Seamless, seamless, seamless.  Order the full amount you're permitted at your firm and eat the rest tomorrow for lunch.  But be a grown-up about it.  Order multiple salads - not multiple cheeseburgers.

11.  You don't "deserve" anything.  One of the associates at my firm spent $15,000 on a 2-week European vacation last summer because "he deserves it since he works so hard".  He has $125k in loans still outstanding.  Don't be him.  Don't have that mentality.

12.  If you're married, most firms have very generous paternity/maternity leaves.  If you're planning to have a kid, have it right before you quit.

13.  Get the hell out of biglaw.  It's not worth it.

chucklesmcgee

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Re: Any biglaw mustachians out there?
« Reply #6 on: December 08, 2012, 04:32:57 PM »
13.  Get the hell out of biglaw.  It's not worth it.

Now this would seem absolutely perverse, but I'm actually running a business 4HWW style and going to a top law school on a nice scholarship. Making at least twice what a starting associate would make. Still contemplating spending a year or two in biglaw for funzies. How stupid is this?

1. I hear it's pretty difficult to get fired, at least in a very short time period

2. I actually might like it. Maybe.

3. I kind of imagine outsourcing like 90% of any background grunt legal research/memo drafting to legal research teams in India which do that kind of thing for around $20-$80 an hour (no sensitive client information), then just checking off the work and adding it to my billable time (I'd just bill the client for a fraction of the time the team devoted to it, given how high my rate would be). The result would be that it looks like I'm doing 30 hours of work a day, billing a client for only 10, and actually spending maybe only two-three hours in the office a day (show up at maybe 4-5, leave to do whatever, come back at 11-12 or so to give the impression I'm in the office all the time).

4. If I get fired, oh well, no loans, nice stache and alternative source of income..


someguy

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Re: Any biglaw mustachians out there?
« Reply #7 on: December 08, 2012, 05:25:11 PM »

Now this would seem absolutely perverse, but I'm actually running a business 4HWW style and going to a top law school on a nice scholarship. Making at least twice what a starting associate would make. Still contemplating spending a year or two in biglaw for funzies. How stupid is this?

1. I hear it's pretty difficult to get fired, at least in a very short time period


Depends on what you consider a "very short time period"?  Almost all associates will get a free year.  Most get 2-3 before classmates start to leave.  But if the economy goes down again, all bets are off.  In 2009 associates were being laid off after a few months, which can have a terrible effect on their career in the industry.

Quote
2. I actually might like it. Maybe.


Doubtful.  95% of the people I work with do not like the job.  The ones that do like the job do not live lives that I would consider desirable.  But if you do like it, more power to you.

Quote
3. I kind of imagine outsourcing like 90% of any background grunt legal research/memo drafting to legal research teams in India which do that kind of thing for around $20-$80 an hour (no sensitive client information), then just checking off the work and adding it to my billable time (I'd just bill the client for a fraction of the time the team devoted to it, given how high my rate would be). The result would be that it looks like I'm doing 30 hours of work a day, billing a client for only 10, and actually spending maybe only two-three hours in the office a day (show up at maybe 4-5, leave to do whatever, come back at 11-12 or so to give the impression I'm in the office all the time).

This would be wonderful, but it's not how it works at all. 

Quote
4. If I get fired, oh well, no loans, nice stache and alternative source of income..

Sure.  Do you mind telling me what you do for 4 hours a week making $350,000 per year so that I can get in on it?

iamlindoro

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Re: Any biglaw mustachians out there?
« Reply #8 on: December 08, 2012, 05:35:32 PM »
Sure.  Do you mind telling me what you do for 4 hours a week making $350,000 per year so that I can get in on it?

Cocaine import/export.

swiper

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Re: Any biglaw mustachians out there?
« Reply #9 on: December 08, 2012, 05:40:16 PM »
Sure.  Do you mind telling me what you do for 4 hours a week making $350,000 per year so that I can get in on it?

Cocaine import/export.

Robbing the above?

Nords

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Re: Any biglaw mustachians out there?
« Reply #10 on: December 08, 2012, 06:52:50 PM »
What year are you?  That will really guide how much you should save (there's a $40-60k difference between third and fifth year).
I work in biglaw in a major market as well with $210k base + bonus.  The biglaw lifestyle is sometimes incompatible with MMM's preachings (e.g. I spent a LOT more on clothes than he probably does and it's hard to cook at home because of my unpredictable schedule).  That said, you can still save $100k+ per year by the time you're a midlevel.  Anyone who isn't saving at a simliar rate is insane.  I assume because you read this blog that you have little interest in becoming a partner, so you should really be focused on cutting the crap expenses (which for me is eating lunch out daily) to enable you to get out before your soul is completely gone. 
Fitness and health are probably the biggest problems with the job -- and it's no joke (see that Skadden associate who died at her desk).  Take care of yourself and save enough to get out as soon as possible.  My number is $400k and then I walk.
You're sellin' the heck outta this career to those who may be looking for "do what you love".  You're also making the U.S. Navy submarine force look pretty sweet by comparison.

Two questions:
1.  What's your hourly rate?  I don't mean the one you bill at, or the one you're paid at.  I mean the one that's calculated by adding up annual net (after-tax) income and dividing it by all the annual hours that you're working/commuting.
2.  Instead of focusing exclusively on paying down student loans, is it also worth contributing to the 401(k) to the extent of the corporate match?

I guess a third question would be how Chuckles' supervisor would be able to tell that he's offloading 90% of his work to an India contract lawyer.  Or maybe Chuckles would want to hang out his own shingle and implement the same four-hour workweek process.

totoro

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Re: Any biglaw mustachians out there?
« Reply #11 on: December 08, 2012, 08:40:30 PM »
I make a biglaw salary without working biglaw hours.  I work 15-20 hours a week, mostly from home, but sometimes I travel.  I never wear a suit except if I have to appear in court, which I try to avoid.

I also don't outsource to India.  A firm I worked at tried that for legal research for one of the legal guides they published and the quality was definitely lacking.  Maybe things have changed as this was about seven years ago, but I wouldn't make this part of your plan without checking it out further.

I think a lot depends on personality.  In my case, specializing and going out on my own worked well.  If you are entrepreneurial you can do well in law as there is not much competition.  Really bright people are attracted to the profession, but there are far fewer business-minded folks than in other fields.

Right now I'm considering starting another small firm.  This is not because I'm not doing well with my specialization, but purely out of a combination of personal interest and what I perceive to be unmet marketplace need.  I enjoy finding a niche and developing new models. 


chucklesmcgee

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Re: Any biglaw mustachians out there?
« Reply #12 on: December 08, 2012, 09:07:04 PM »
Sure.  Do you mind telling me what you do for 4 hours a week making $350,000 per year so that I can get in on it?

haha, I own a chemical company. Raw ingredients come in from China, bottles and labels come from the US, everything gets mixed up and bottled in Florida, shipped up to an order fulfillment center in PA. Orders come in online, handled by a credit card processor. Guy in the Philippines handles customer service for $7/hr. I have a bookkeeper in Pakistan recording revenue and running payroll/making 401k contributions for the same. Advertising agency promotes our products. And I'm wherever I feel like being. Spend most of my time checking my accounts and writing checks to myself.

Easily less than 4 hours a week in maintenance mode. Sometimes I do a bit of research for new products and that can take longer. Tax time will probably have me working quite a bit more than that. But it's humming along at this point.

totoro

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Re: Any biglaw mustachians out there?
« Reply #13 on: December 08, 2012, 09:17:18 PM »
Well, that is interesting!

You will likely find there are many opportunities in law for you with this type of background.  Biglaw has crazy overhead and if you can figure out how to translate the business model to lower overhead (read virtual law) and have employees outsourced - even if they are in the US - you could make a fortune.  I am not so attracted to this model because I dislike managing others' work product.

someguy

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Re: Any biglaw mustachians out there?
« Reply #14 on: December 08, 2012, 09:40:54 PM »
You're sellin' the heck outta this career to those who may be looking for "do what you love".  You're also making the U.S. Navy submarine force look pretty sweet by comparison.

Two questions:
1.  What's your hourly rate?  I don't mean the one you bill at, or the one you're paid at.  I mean the one that's calculated by adding up annual net (after-tax) income and dividing it by all the annual hours that you're working/commuting.
2.  Instead of focusing exclusively on paying down student loans, is it also worth contributing to the 401(k) to the extent of the corporate match?

I guess a third question would be how Chuckles' supervisor would be able to tell that he's offloading 90% of his work to an India contract lawyer.  Or maybe Chuckles would want to hang out his own shingle and implement the same four-hour workweek process.

Ha, sorry, coming off a week of 17 hour days (9am to 2am every day).  The fourth quarter before the fiscal cliff really stinks for those of us in M&A.  I'm a little negative about the job lately.  I worked 12 hours on Thanksgiving and I expect to close a deal at 5pm on Christmas Eve and another on New Year's Eve.  Going to be a fun finish to the  year.

1.  I don't know.  I'm on call almost all of the time.  I billed 2,670 hours last year, which probably translates to a little over 3,300 hours worked or at the office with 80% efficiency.  I was paid $200k after bonus ($185,000 + $15,000 bonus) last year, so that works out to around $60 per hour pre-tax.

2.  No biglaw firm provides a match on 401k contributions.

3.  He would not be able to accomplish this, sadly.  It's just not how the industry works.

someguy

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Re: Any biglaw mustachians out there?
« Reply #15 on: December 08, 2012, 10:08:00 PM »
I make a biglaw salary without working biglaw hours.  I work 15-20 hours a week, mostly from home, but sometimes I travel.  I never wear a suit except if I have to appear in court, which I try to avoid.

Do you mind sharing your practice area?  Very interested in hearing about exit options and how you established a practice.

Nords

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Re: Any biglaw mustachians out there?
« Reply #16 on: December 08, 2012, 10:15:29 PM »
... so that works out to around $60 per hour pre-tax.
What a coincidence.  In 1997 the U.S. Navy was billing the time of an O-4 officer training officers of other (allied) navies at that rate.

That was on shore duty, too, where I was literally working only an eight-hour day and a five-day week with no watchstanding or duty.

I can see why you're feeling a little crispy around the edges.

totoro

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Re: Any biglaw mustachians out there?
« Reply #17 on: December 08, 2012, 11:01:12 PM »
I make a biglaw salary without working biglaw hours.  I work 15-20 hours a week, mostly from home, but sometimes I travel.  I never wear a suit except if I have to appear in court, which I try to avoid.

Do you mind sharing your practice area?  Very interested in hearing about exit options and how you established a practice.

I'd be happy to if you PM me.  I'm not keen on publishing enough details online to completely lose anonymity :)

totoro

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Re: Any biglaw mustachians out there?
« Reply #18 on: December 08, 2012, 11:06:53 PM »
The forumula most firms use around here is 1/3-1/3-1/3.  1/3 overhead including support staff 1/3 salary to lawyer and 1/3 profit margin for partners.  If you can cut out the partners and the overhead you can do very well and charge slightly less than most. 

icefr

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Re: Any biglaw mustachians out there?
« Reply #19 on: December 09, 2012, 01:14:17 PM »
Quote
I work in software... I grossed ~140k this year

Damn, when I read this, I think I definitely chose the wrong direction after finishing school... I didn't want to be a code monkey in a cubicle, but I make less than half of your salary.  What level of school did you complete? And if you don't mind saying, what kind of software job do you have?
No kidding. I'm in engineering. I could be making that if I really wanted to work 55 hour weeks. But I don't.

I have a Bachelor's degree and about 5 years of work experience. 140k includes bonuses - that's not just salary. My salary alone is still 6 figures though. I work for a large software company and I work as a software engineer. And no, I don't work 55 hour weeks. I just say no / I look for groups that don't work as crazy of hours / manage my time well...and once I have my mortgage paid off in a few years, it will be quite easy to walk and find a more casual job if they really want to make me work 55 hours/week.

Mini-Mer

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Re: Any biglaw mustachians out there?
« Reply #20 on: December 09, 2012, 01:34:26 PM »
3. I kind of imagine outsourcing like 90% of any background grunt legal research/memo drafting to legal research teams in India which do that kind of thing for around $20-$80 an hour (no sensitive client information), then just checking off the work and adding it to my billable time (I'd just bill the client for a fraction of the time the team devoted to it, given how high my rate would be). The result would be that it looks like I'm doing 30 hours of work a day, billing a client for only 10, and actually spending maybe only two-three hours in the office a day (show up at maybe 4-5, leave to do whatever, come back at 11-12 or so to give the impression I'm in the office all the time).

I would pay money to watch an associate try to get away with this.  (Specifically, a set sum for each week where you spend less than half a day in the office, successfully outsource all other work, and do not get fired.)  It would be a non-starter where I work - insufficient privacy and too many emergency meetings.  It would make a good subplot for an office sitcom, though.

I work for a biglaw firm - initially had ideas of going to law school, but figured out pretty quickly that staff had better work-life balance than associates, or even partners.  I don't make nearly as much, but I also have time to be more frugal (garden, cook food, clean home, commute by bus, etc.).  OP, congratulations on paying off law school!

someguy

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Re: Any biglaw mustachians out there?
« Reply #21 on: December 09, 2012, 02:06:06 PM »
I would pay money to watch an associate try to get away with this.  (Specifically, a set sum for each week where you spend less than half a day in the office, successfully outsource all other work, and do not get fired.)  It would be a non-starter where I work - insufficient privacy and too many emergency meetings.  It would make a good subplot for an office sitcom, though.

No kidding.  I had to cancel plans for a few hours of emergency calls today.  It would be hilarious to have an associate say "no, sorry, I'm busy, but I'll put you in touch with this Indian guy who has been doing all of the work without a law degree."

totoro

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Re: Any biglaw mustachians out there?
« Reply #22 on: December 09, 2012, 02:28:35 PM »
The folks in India do actually have law degrees and it is quite common to outsource some types of work from the US to India:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/05/10/AR2008051002355.html

My prior firm had difficulties with quality of work product though.

If you had good connections and excellent screening I expect you could find better quality service.

kkbmustang

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Re: Any biglaw mustachians out there?
« Reply #23 on: December 09, 2012, 05:54:39 PM »
I was in BigLaw for the 4 longest years of my life.

someguy

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Re: Any biglaw mustachians out there?
« Reply #24 on: December 09, 2012, 06:10:16 PM »
I was in BigLaw for the 4 longest years of my life.

Mind if I ask what you do now?

Self-employed-swami

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Re: Any biglaw mustachians out there?
« Reply #25 on: December 09, 2012, 06:45:02 PM »
Craziness. 

I work 96 hours a week, when I am working, but I only work 20-26 weeks a year.  I couldn't do that more often than that.

pbj

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Re: Any biglaw mustachians out there?
« Reply #26 on: December 09, 2012, 09:15:20 PM »
OP here, thanks for everyone's thoughts.

someguy, the point-by-point checklist is helpful. It's getting bookmarked. And I agree, the fitness thing is the hardest...if you've figured it out/have any ideas, would love to hear them!

anonlawyer

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Re: Any biglaw mustachians out there?
« Reply #27 on: December 10, 2012, 10:02:23 AM »
Hello,

I'm a senior associate in Biglaw -- soon to be junior partner in a few weeks.  I was a first year in 2006, but only started thinking about FIRE in 2009.  I've been trying to implement my plan ever since.  I even wrote this guest post for ERE: http://earlyretirementextreme.com/a-way-out-for-a-young-lawyer.html in 2010.  Since then, my income has continued to go up, although my spending has also gone up because now I account for two people instead of one.  I've been saving over $100K per year for a few years now.  I think I can pull out a few more years in Biglaw, despite my negativity in 2010.  I've learned how to maneuver better, while minimizing stress.  My biggest fear though is that I won't be willing to walk away from the paycheck when I reach the cusp of FIRE.

As one of the first posters said, the key is to avoid golden handcuffs.  Don't do anything to significantly compromise your savings rate and/or freedom.  Buying a house comes to mind.  Quite a few of my colleagues have bought $1-1.5M houses.  Whatever equity they are able to save is outweighed by the interest, taxes, maintenance they have to pay.  Just fit in without revealing your true intentions to anyone.

Good luck!

someguy

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Re: Any biglaw mustachians out there?
« Reply #28 on: December 10, 2012, 09:22:34 PM »
Hello,

I'm a senior associate in Biglaw -- soon to be junior partner in a few weeks.  I was a first year in 2006, but only started thinking about FIRE in 2009.  I've been trying to implement my plan ever since.  I even wrote this guest post for ERE: http://earlyretirementextreme.com/a-way-out-for-a-young-lawyer.html in 2010.  Since then, my income has continued to go up, although my spending has also gone up because now I account for two people instead of one.  I've been saving over $100K per year for a few years now.  I think I can pull out a few more years in Biglaw, despite my negativity in 2010.  I've learned how to maneuver better, while minimizing stress.  My biggest fear though is that I won't be willing to walk away from the paycheck when I reach the cusp of FIRE.

As one of the first posters said, the key is to avoid golden handcuffs.  Don't do anything to significantly compromise your savings rate and/or freedom.  Buying a house comes to mind.  Quite a few of my colleagues have bought $1-1.5M houses.  Whatever equity they are able to save is outweighed by the interest, taxes, maintenance they have to pay.  Just fit in without revealing your true intentions to anyone.

Good luck!

Are you going to be a share partner???  What firms make share partners after 6 years?

anonlawyer

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Re: Any biglaw mustachians out there?
« Reply #29 on: December 10, 2012, 09:42:47 PM »
Are you going to be a share partner???  What firms make share partners after 6 years?

Non-equity.  I do have a friend who made equity partner at another firm in 6 years.  He was a special case because he got an extra two years of credit due to prior experience (not clerkship), which was closely related to his area of practice.

Togoshiman

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Re: Any biglaw mustachians out there?
« Reply #30 on: December 11, 2012, 08:32:55 AM »
Did BigLaw for a few years, came in-house to financial services, make roughly the same with no billables.  I got a bit lucky with my path, but set myself up for that luck too.  Because I work with a small but well-comped legal team inside a much bigger institution, many of the traps for BigLaw associates don't exist here.  I don't have to have a huge house, crazy car or super-expensive suits, etc.  I have a modest town house bought in the depths of the housing collapse (which I couldn't afford and wouldn't be willing to pay for now).  I further hack the downtown life by buying suits from consignment shops, drinking the free office coffee (inside my nice Starbucks travel mug), etc.  Since most people in the office are MBAs, CA/CGAs or techie types, there are few pre-conceived notions of what lawyers should be like, which frees me to be or do what I want so long as I'm in the ballpark for corporate culture.  And I'm still a lawyer - I'm just the client sending work to the firms when I leave at 6pm for dinner with my family every night.

In short, I think it's quite possible to do the downtown law thing and still be Mustachean.  I think these things could still be done in a firm, but it gets harder - both to hide some of these hacks and to not get swept up in the bs.  Anyway, remember that GCs in-house pull in close to what partners do, probably the same when you factor in I have a pension.  Happy to answer any specific questions, within the bounds of internet anonymity.

catmustache

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Re: Any biglaw mustachians out there?
« Reply #31 on: December 11, 2012, 09:03:41 AM »
I make a biglaw salary without working biglaw hours.  I work 15-20 hours a week, mostly from home, but sometimes I travel.  I never wear a suit except if I have to appear in court, which I try to avoid.

Do you mind sharing your practice area?  Very interested in hearing about exit options and how you established a practice.

I'd be happy to if you PM me.  I'm not keen on publishing enough details online to completely lose anonymity :)

Holy crap! I agree with the other poster who said that they went the wrong direction after graduation. No kidding. I clearly went to the wrong law school/ chose the wrong specialty. Granted, I knew I didn't want to do biglaw, but still... I think it may be time for me to change directions, if at all possible! I'd love to hear more about what areas people went into.

CNM

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Re: Any biglaw mustachians out there?
« Reply #32 on: December 11, 2012, 04:06:33 PM »
Very interesting thread.  I am in small law- I work at a law firm with 6 attorneys- and I like it for the most part.  I earn a hair less than $90K/year in a city with relatively low cost of living and my hours can be crazy but are usually manageable.  I am still trying to retire ASAP as I find litigation too stressful.  The horror stories of biglaw make me think that it is not worthwhile at all.  I would probably have burned out long ago in biglaw.

And about the outsourcing to India, that sounds like a really bad idea to me.  I have never heard of that before but if you're the one filing the motion or arguing to a judge you better be sure that your research says what you say it says. What about malpractice coverage? 

totoro

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Re: Any biglaw mustachians out there?
« Reply #33 on: December 11, 2012, 04:43:33 PM »
I make much more than this and work half-time.  I'm not saying this in any way as a comeback, just as an observation as to what is possible.   I did put my time in at lower pay for longer hours working for a firm and it just was not worth it for me. 

I am not money-motivated - I need to do something that fascinates me and is for a good cause - the money part was secondary.  I am; however, extremely entrepreneurial and always have been.  I spend my free time analyzing business ideas for fun. 

Part of what the opportunities are in this field are opportunities because of the profession and part is personality and ability to think outside the box.  If you are on this board it is quite likely you have the ability to think outside the box and with a law degree there are many paths you could choose. 

Skies the limit really as long as you are doing something that matches who you really are and hits on your motivation and actualization super powers.

dragoncar

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Re: Any biglaw mustachians out there?
« Reply #34 on: December 11, 2012, 06:42:51 PM »
To answer OP, if you're a few years in, there's no reason you shouldn't have at least $100k as a savings goal (including retirement accounts).  Of course, this can only be achieved by avoiding the golden handcuffs.  Live the lifestyle of a grad student.

To those who are thinking of outsourcing, this is not possible to do both profitably and legally within a traditional firm.  Why?  Because you bill by the hour.  If you are outsourcing the hours, then you will not make your billables.  If you are lying about your time, well then you are breaking the law.  I can think of better ways to make money if I'm willing to commit fraud.

On the other hand, if you are starting your own legal outsourcing business, then it could work.  In this case, the client knows up front what the arrangement is, so there are no pesky ethical issues.  Still, expect the relevant state bars to fight you tooth and nail to protect the legal market.

Edit:  And totoro's numbers make sense.  Firms tend to pay about 1/3 what they bill you out for.  So if you can somehow leave the firm and take one or two discrete projects with you, you can make the same money for 1/3 the work (or 3x the money for the same work).  That's a big if, in my mind.
« Last Edit: December 11, 2012, 06:48:07 PM by dragoncar »

totoro

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Re: Any biglaw mustachians out there?
« Reply #35 on: December 11, 2012, 06:57:03 PM »
I don't know if it is a big "if".  I think it is more of a matter of overcoming your own fears.  When I first went on my own I stayed at my home office all day from 9-5 because it felt "wrong" to leave even though I only needed to work 1/3 as hard to make my salary.  I did this for the first two years - programming and not reality.  My sense of guilt over "laziness" was hard to overcome.

As time has passed (about eight years now) I have learned that it does not matter if I sit at a desk.  The world has changed.  If you have a laptop and cell phone there is no reason to sit at a desk.  I work in the library, at Starbucks, on the road...  I head out to buy antiques during the day if something comes up at a good price used online, bake cupcakes for my kids' classes and deliver them, feed a murder of crows that I've trained to come to a bell, walk my dog on the waterfront at random times...

Really, we are quite limited by what has been done and not what can be.  Get the skills and if you are offering good service with good brain power in a niche market clients will call you.  I regularly turn down work.

dragoncar

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Re: Any biglaw mustachians out there?
« Reply #36 on: December 11, 2012, 08:10:43 PM »
Totoro, wise advice, but I don't think it works for this audience.  As an extremely risk averse lawyer (after all, I could have gone into investment banking or a tech startup for potentially higher returns) I agree that I have to overcome my own fears.  Number one in my plan is to follow to ideas of ERE and MMM to build a safety net that I can use as a foundation to take the risks I need.  I believe this type of safety net is what allows "the rich" to take the risks necessary to become "filthy rich"

totoro

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Re: Any biglaw mustachians out there?
« Reply #37 on: December 11, 2012, 08:31:15 PM »
Maybe, maybe not.

Life is also like money.  Your time is an asset that is time limited :)

While money brings you the ability to be free, amassing money is not the only way. 

Each minute of each day passes by and you live it.  Do you enjoy it or do you endure it?  If you are enduring or worse, perhaps attention needs to be paid to what you are doing more than to how much you are making when you have options.  Not everyone has as many options as lawyers do.

Dragoncar, you are risk averse.  So am I.  I am risk averse not just to losing money but also to losing life.  There are no guarantees. 

I don't view FI as the first goal, but as an interesting problem to solve.  Risk as a lawyer is mitigated by being financially prudent and living less than your means.  I agree that a safety net creates freedom,  I had some savings before I went on my own.

I guess the real question is what is your definition of a safety net and how many hours are you willing to do something you don't like to get there so you can do what you do like.  How much is your aversion to risk keeping you from something better?

mm1970

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Re: Any biglaw mustachians out there?
« Reply #38 on: December 11, 2012, 09:48:20 PM »
Quote
I work in software... I grossed ~140k this year

Damn, when I read this, I think I definitely chose the wrong direction after finishing school... I didn't want to be a code monkey in a cubicle, but I make less than half of your salary.  What level of school did you complete? And if you don't mind saying, what kind of software job do you have?
No kidding. I'm in engineering. I could be making that if I really wanted to work 55 hour weeks. But I don't.

I have a Bachelor's degree and about 5 years of work experience. 140k includes bonuses - that's not just salary. My salary alone is still 6 figures though. I work for a large software company and I work as a software engineer. And no, I don't work 55 hour weeks. I just say no / I look for groups that don't work as crazy of hours / manage my time well...and once I have my mortgage paid off in a few years, it will be quite easy to walk and find a more casual job if they really want to make me work 55 hours/week.
Hm.  I'm in semiconductors, not software.  I bet location has a lot to do with it too.  I don't get bonuses because I have a tendency to pick startups.  First startup stock options were nice, an extra $25k to $30k per year over the years I was there.  Jury's still out on the second one.  I got in earlier and am higher up, so there is a bigger upside.

Software...man I can't program my way out of a paper bag.  That was not the job for me!

icefr

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Re: Any biglaw mustachians out there?
« Reply #39 on: December 11, 2012, 11:00:13 PM »
Hm.  I'm in semiconductors, not software.  I bet location has a lot to do with it too.  I don't get bonuses because I have a tendency to pick startups.  First startup stock options were nice, an extra $25k to $30k per year over the years I was there.  Jury's still out on the second one.  I got in earlier and am higher up, so there is a bigger upside.

Software...man I can't program my way out of a paper bag.  That was not the job for me!

I'm definitely not a semiconductors person or a startup person! I like the stability of a larger company. My bonuses have been ridiculous and I just bank them all because I don't see how that can possibly continue...and then it gets even better the next year. Good luck with the second startup!

chesebert

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Re: Any biglaw mustachians out there?
« Reply #40 on: December 12, 2012, 12:37:09 AM »
Hello all,

I've been reading MMM for a few weeks now and love the posts and comments. I'm especially a big fan of this forum, so I thought I would throw a question out there.

I'm a few years in at a East Coast biglaw firm and am looking to learn something new from my fellow biglaw mustachians. Law school has been paid off, and now I've reached the 401k limit for this year.  For 2013, I'd like to set a yearly savings goal for myself and curious to see how much biglaw mustachians typically save.

I'd also be interested in hearing how living the MMM life balances out with the typical biglaw lifestyle.
A couple of years in, started at a V5. Networth increased ~200k (not counting paid off student loan amounts) since graduating law school. Loans will be paid off in a couple of months. Worked part time during law school and the two summers, so my debt was less than half of my fellow classmates at graduation.  Target to save 65% after tax take home in 2013, and will increase accordingly in future years.

pbj

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Re: Any biglaw mustachians out there?
« Reply #41 on: December 24, 2012, 11:06:15 AM »
Wow, this thread has been really enlightening for me. Thanks for everyone's replies. (And may I add, I wish you all were acquaintances in real life, I'd love to pick your brains on all things biglaw and finances!)

Chesebert, congrats on the substantial networth jump! How do you manage to save 65% of after-tax? I like to think myself frugal, but that is quite impressive!

Togoshiman, how did you find the in-house position? That is something that interests me down the line, and also, did you, like one of the earlier commentors on this thread, have a "walk away" number from biglaw?

Anonlawyer, your story is really inspiring to me (a junior partner who has some serious fiscal savvyness!). I read several posts on your blog, and you've got a new reader!

kkbmustang

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Re: Any biglaw mustachians out there?
« Reply #42 on: December 24, 2012, 11:52:34 AM »
I was in BigLaw for the 4 longest years of my life.

Mind if I ask what you do now?

Someguy - I left BigLaw to go to Big4 to go in-house as AGC to go to consulting. Now I work for myself. I have the best boss ever. :)

CNM

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Re: Any biglaw mustachians out there?
« Reply #43 on: January 17, 2013, 09:59:25 AM »



3. I kind of imagine outsourcing like 90% of any background grunt legal research/memo drafting to legal research teams in India which do that kind of thing for around $20-$80 an hour (no sensitive client information), then just checking off the work and adding it to my billable time (I'd just bill the client for a fraction of the time the team devoted to it, given how high my rate would be). The result would be that it looks like I'm doing 30 hours of work a day, billing a client for only 10, and actually spending maybe only two-three hours in the office a day (show up at maybe 4-5, leave to do whatever, come back at 11-12 or so to give the impression I'm in the office all the time).

[/quote]

I read an article on BBC news about a software developer who outsourced his job to China.  It's hard to tell exactly what happened to the guy, but the use of the word "scam" multiple times makes me think that it didn't work out very well for him.
Here's a link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-21043693

chucklesmcgee

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Re: Any biglaw mustachians out there?
« Reply #44 on: January 17, 2013, 08:26:55 PM »



3. I kind of imagine outsourcing like 90% of any background grunt legal research/memo drafting to legal research teams in India which do that kind of thing for around $20-$80 an hour (no sensitive client information), then just checking off the work and adding it to my billable time (I'd just bill the client for a fraction of the time the team devoted to it, given how high my rate would be). The result would be that it looks like I'm doing 30 hours of work a day, billing a client for only 10, and actually spending maybe only two-three hours in the office a day (show up at maybe 4-5, leave to do whatever, come back at 11-12 or so to give the impression I'm in the office all the time).


I read an article on BBC news about a software developer who outsourced his job to China.  It's hard to tell exactly what happened to the guy, but the use of the word "scam" multiple times makes me think that it didn't work out very well for him.
Here's a link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-21043693
[/quote]

"All told, it looked like he earned several hundred thousand dollars a year, and only had to pay the Chinese consulting firm about $50,000 (31,270) annually."

The employee no longer worked at the firm, Mr Valentine said."

Sounds like he's taking in several full-time jobs pay and got fired from one job, not a bad deal. Obviously I wouldn't send confidential client data or fedex my RSA key overseas so someone can access internal security databases, and that seems to be what really got the man fired.

CloserToFree

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Re: Any biglaw mustachians out there?
« Reply #45 on: November 29, 2016, 01:51:30 PM »
Any other biglaw folks out there interested in resuscitating this thread?  Was thinking of starting a new one but came across this old one and thought it'd be worth pinging to gauge interest.  Have been following the larger, more general lawyer mustachian thread but would appreciate having somewhere to discuss biglaw-specific issues with those in similar situations -- I'm a senior associate at a biglaw firm in a major East Coast city, pondering whether to stay in my relatively cushy job (market level comp, ability to work a reduced time schedule, lots of flexibility to work from home, 4 weeks vacation, not very stressful all things considered, but not a lot of long-term/upward potential), make a move to another lawyer job, or aggressively ratchet back our lifestyle and jump off the FIRE cliff.  Reply if you're interested in discussing these or other issues of particular relevance to those of us in biglaw.  Thanks!

chesebert

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Re: Any biglaw mustachians out there?
« Reply #46 on: November 29, 2016, 02:20:18 PM »
Just ride the OMY gravy train until you are comfortably FIREd. Assume you are already comfortably in the 2 comma club given your locale. If not, grind at full time (overtime for 6 figure market bonus)  until you reach that milestone and ratchet back to mine OMY market salary.


dragoncar

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Re: Any biglaw mustachians out there?
« Reply #47 on: November 29, 2016, 02:32:55 PM »
Just ride the OMY gravy train until you are comfortably FIREd. Assume you are already comfortably in the 2 comma club given your locale. If not, grind at full time (overtime for 6 figure market bonus)  until you reach that milestone and ratchet back to mine OMY market salary.

Yeah, I'd tend to agree.  I don't know closertofree is, but I went part time thinking I could do a few years to coast into FI.  But all it did was accelerate my desire to leave.  If I could do it over, I'd probably have tried to kill it for OMY or two vs. coasting for longer.