Author Topic: Any Lawyer Mustachians on here?  (Read 214263 times)

Anon-E-Mouze

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Re: Any Lawyer Mustachians on here?
« Reply #700 on: October 02, 2021, 08:39:08 AM »
I've been a lawyer for 30 years now and thought some younger lawyer Mustachians might be interested in my less conventional career path, which for the most part has been very interesting, relatively remunerative and much more balanced (in terms of work versus life) than a traditional career in private practice.

I started off in Big Law on a common career path for many of us (business law transactional practice) but quickly realized that although I found the subject interesting, I wasn't interested in, and wasn't that good at, managing transactions. After a few years (in two different countries), I jumped to a research/knowledge management role at a top firm and LOVED that role - it was like being paid (a lot of money) to be a grad student, dealing with only the most interesting and challenging questions and working with lawyers across the firm.

However, I didn't have much time left over for a private life outside work, and I was single in my early-mid 30s. I also profoundly influenced by an accident my hard-working sister had at about this time. She was working 50+ hours (mostly on night shifts) as a nurse as the sole breadwinner in her young family. (Her husband worked at home on their land.) She fell asleep at the wheel coming home from a night shift and plowed into a tree. Fortunately, her injuries were quite minor - but it was a reminder to both of us that our lives could end in an instant and it was important to spend time on what mattered.

I didn't shift jobs immediately, but over the next two years I decided to find an environment that had better work-life balance but was also really interesting. I ended up getting a job as senior counsel for a public sector agency that had salaries that were, in a sense, competitive with market salaries (when work-life balance + government pension) was factored in. For reference, the top non-management lawyers in the organization made salaries in the range of 75-90% of what senior associates in BigLaw firms made (plus we got government pensions). My work week dropped from an unpredictable 60+ hours to a mostly predictable 45 hour schedule, and I got to work on really interesting projects with a public interest focus. I also got a great opportunity to take a working sabbatical in Europe working for a similar public sector agency. That experience gave me time to travel (on the weekends and post-sabbatical) in Europe and also to be exposed to the options for working for international agencies. I got headhunted for a couple of postings, and although I didn't make the final cut for the roles, I learned a lot about what was available and kinds of skills and knowledge I'd need to succeed. I headed back to my home agency after my sabbatical and shifted to international policy work. A few years later, I succeeded in landing a contract with an international agency. By that point, I'd met and married my DH (not sure that would have happened if I'd still been working 60+ hour work weeks) and we spent a couple of "honeymoon" years with me working for an interesting agency and living in an amazing European city, where we were able to explore Europe and the Middle East a lot. (I also got heaps of vacation: 6 weeks per year, plus an extra 2 weeks for home leave every other year.)

After two years, I was headhunted again for a couple of opportunities and got two offers. One would have landed us in Scandinavia (fascinating job, great work-life balance but low pay and limited career options for my husband) and the other, which I took, landed us in the United States. I started work in a government affairs role just as the financial crisis hit - and I spent the next nine years helping my employer deal with that crisis. There wasn't much work-life balance (better than a law firm but probably at least 50 hours a week most weeks with some crisis weeks or months in the 60+ range) but the compensation was very high, my colleagues were great, and the work was fascinating (and global in scope).

Unfortunately (or fortunately, I'm not sure which), I got RIFF'd from that high-paying but very demanding job after nine years. At that point, I was in my early 50s and we were technically FI but wanted a fatter stache, so I was back in the job market again - but had a year's severance so I didn't need to rush things.  I landed a knowledge management role at a boutique law firm with great people, a good culture and a commitment to work-life balance. However, the job was too big for one person to do, there was no budget for more staff and I was making below-market compensation. I ended up getting headhunted again for a similar role at a large, top-tier firm where there was more infrastructure support for the role and more manageable expectations for what I would be doing, as well as a significant bump-up in compensation. I've settled in there and really like my colleagues, the work and the culture. The hours are somewhat longer than my last position (probably 45-48 hours instead of 40-42) but that may be due to my being in the learning/early stage of the role.

I do make much less money than my peers who stuck with traditional BigLaw and made partner, but I think I've had a much more interesting career - and more opportunities for a life outside work - than most of them.
 
If anyone has questions about opportunities for lawyers in knowledge management, government affairs or working in international affairs or for international agencies, I'd be happy to answer questions.

FIREby35

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Re: Any Lawyer Mustachians on here?
« Reply #701 on: October 05, 2021, 03:05:46 PM »
BTW, my small solo practice is a bit of a misnomer now. I have hired two additional attorneys. It is actually awesome (so far) because I do drastically less work. I have them handle all the behind the scenes stuff (pleadings, briefs, etc). I go to court and, when necessary, do the client hand holding. I also ensure quality control of legal work and strategies. I am also the "rainmaker" for the firm and bring in all the business. When it was just me, I was doing approx $350,000 of business but referring away a lot of cases. With additional attorneys, I can keep more business in house. So, I think we can easily get the gross receipts to $500,000 and maybe more.

My ultimate goal is to have a small firm where I sit at the top and choose the cases I want to work on or that are particularly profitable. The associate attorneys do the work for all the cases I don't want but have value. They cover the office overhead and I earn a percentage of their practice. Just to give you an idea, I pay them a percentage of their receipts NOT a salary. If I can hit my FI number (I'm over halfway there) and create passive income through the law firm that covers my annual costs (since I'm mustachian, that is about 40k for my family of 5) then I'll be able to let my stache compound for decades, stay active in the law/community but have lots of personal flexibility.

That is the hope anyway.... Has anyone else done something like that?

You are an inspiration for the rest of us reading.  I am just curious half a decade later if you hit your goals.

Jeez, it's funny, I read some of my prior posts and hoped I wasn't boorish with my evangelizing.
 
My firm is still going strong after ten years of practicing mostly solo. As I reached FI, I realized the power of Mustachianism. I started keeping bigger PI cases I used to refer out and co-counsel because I had the money and experience to push them forward. I've been pushing cases to jury that, to be honest, other lawyers don't really want to take to trial. Who wants that jury trial case with a Spanish speaking undocumented immigrant? We do :) Not only do we want the case, we want to try the case to jury and ask our English speaking neighbors for 100% fair compensation. We don't want the discounted, cheap justice our opponents have to offer. So, we go get it.

The reputation I've been earning means I can sometimes write letters that earn 8k, 16k, 33k or more.  For me, at least, those letters used to go unanswered by my opponents. Also, I've made my law firm an affiliate with a nationally known Plaintiff law firm (which we don't have in my mid-sized city). Sometimes they come to try a case with me or for me just to keep the insurers on their toes! All I can say is I settle cases for more money than ever before and I am more prepared to speak to local juries than ever before. We also have to say "No" more than ever before. For now, I think we'll keep getting more justice for negligence victims in the community and I'm grateful for opportunity to do it.

With courage born of my growing "stache", I closed my immigration and criminal practice. It took me approximately two years to wind that up. But, that allowed me to reduce the number of open cases in the firm from a high of 231 to 130 today. The numbers are inflated by small matters of routine paperwork for a specific group of immigrants in my community (DACA dreamers). Many moons ago, I helped approximately 100 of these people register for the immigration status, mostly when my clients were teenagers. They still consider me their lawyer and we renew their papers for a modest fee every two years. I enjoy meeting with these people. We even founded a non-profit dedicated to helping them go to college. So far, the program has paid for more than 120 full-tuition scholarships to local community colleges.

The major reduction in work has helped open up time for my family. I still take a multi-week vacation in the winter (not in 2020 bc of the pandemic). I drop my kids off at 8:30 and pick them up at 4:00. I do visit clients and witnesses in the evenings sometimes. I also do community volunteer work in the evenings. But, I actually take my family to client and community meetings on occasion. I enjoy meeting my clients on their turf when my lawyer persona is reduced (no suit, no degrees on the wall, in their home instead of the office). Plus, it helps me "see" them and advocate better for them. As an advocate for negligence victims further disempowered by their economic and social status, I think knowing what is really happening gives me an advantage over a "paper" lawyer every time the jury is summoned.

I actually did not succeed in keeping other lawyers with me as mentioned in a prior post. I had one leave for to the FBI and the other got a great job supervising a dozen lawyers at a local non-profit. They are both still good friends. After they left, I just did everything myself (with four non lawyer staff) rather than worry about managing other lawyers. But, I just hired a brand new lawyer for a salary. I'm not as interested in them as a money generating asset but I do want to show young lawyers "how to hunt." We still need more Spanish speaking trial lawyers willing to go all the way in my community. So, I figure I'll try to create the lawyers the community needs. Maybe this attitude shift will be the ticket to going from self-employed to business owner. I've given up trying to predict the future, so we'll just see how it all unfolds. Wish me luck!

Anyway, I wish everyone here prosperity. I hope everyone finds their place in the law.


anon

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Re: Any Lawyer Mustachians on here?
« Reply #702 on: October 05, 2021, 07:54:46 PM »
I've been a lawyer for 30 years now and thought some younger lawyer Mustachians might be interested in my less conventional career path, which for the most part has been very interesting, relatively remunerative and much more balanced (in terms of work versus life) than a traditional career in private practice.

I started off in Big Law on a common career path for many of us (business law transactional practice) but quickly realized that although I found the subject interesting, I wasn't interested in, and wasn't that good at, managing transactions. After a few years (in two different countries), I jumped to a research/knowledge management role at a top firm and LOVED that role - it was like being paid (a lot of money) to be a grad student, dealing with only the most interesting and challenging questions and working with lawyers across the firm.

However, I didn't have much time left over for a private life outside work, and I was single in my early-mid 30s. I also profoundly influenced by an accident my hard-working sister had at about this time. She was working 50+ hours (mostly on night shifts) as a nurse as the sole breadwinner in her young family. (Her husband worked at home on their land.) She fell asleep at the wheel coming home from a night shift and plowed into a tree. Fortunately, her injuries were quite minor - but it was a reminder to both of us that our lives could end in an instant and it was important to spend time on what mattered.

I didn't shift jobs immediately, but over the next two years I decided to find an environment that had better work-life balance but was also really interesting. I ended up getting a job as senior counsel for a public sector agency that had salaries that were, in a sense, competitive with market salaries (when work-life balance + government pension) was factored in. For reference, the top non-management lawyers in the organization made salaries in the range of 75-90% of what senior associates in BigLaw firms made (plus we got government pensions). My work week dropped from an unpredictable 60+ hours to a mostly predictable 45 hour schedule, and I got to work on really interesting projects with a public interest focus. I also got a great opportunity to take a working sabbatical in Europe working for a similar public sector agency. That experience gave me time to travel (on the weekends and post-sabbatical) in Europe and also to be exposed to the options for working for international agencies. I got headhunted for a couple of postings, and although I didn't make the final cut for the roles, I learned a lot about what was available and kinds of skills and knowledge I'd need to succeed. I headed back to my home agency after my sabbatical and shifted to international policy work. A few years later, I succeeded in landing a contract with an international agency. By that point, I'd met and married my DH (not sure that would have happened if I'd still been working 60+ hour work weeks) and we spent a couple of "honeymoon" years with me working for an interesting agency and living in an amazing European city, where we were able to explore Europe and the Middle East a lot. (I also got heaps of vacation: 6 weeks per year, plus an extra 2 weeks for home leave every other year.)

After two years, I was headhunted again for a couple of opportunities and got two offers. One would have landed us in Scandinavia (fascinating job, great work-life balance but low pay and limited career options for my husband) and the other, which I took, landed us in the United States. I started work in a government affairs role just as the financial crisis hit - and I spent the next nine years helping my employer deal with that crisis. There wasn't much work-life balance (better than a law firm but probably at least 50 hours a week most weeks with some crisis weeks or months in the 60+ range) but the compensation was very high, my colleagues were great, and the work was fascinating (and global in scope).

Unfortunately (or fortunately, I'm not sure which), I got RIFF'd from that high-paying but very demanding job after nine years. At that point, I was in my early 50s and we were technically FI but wanted a fatter stache, so I was back in the job market again - but had a year's severance so I didn't need to rush things.  I landed a knowledge management role at a boutique law firm with great people, a good culture and a commitment to work-life balance. However, the job was too big for one person to do, there was no budget for more staff and I was making below-market compensation. I ended up getting headhunted again for a similar role at a large, top-tier firm where there was more infrastructure support for the role and more manageable expectations for what I would be doing, as well as a significant bump-up in compensation. I've settled in there and really like my colleagues, the work and the culture. The hours are somewhat longer than my last position (probably 45-48 hours instead of 40-42) but that may be due to my being in the learning/early stage of the role.

I do make much less money than my peers who stuck with traditional BigLaw and made partner, but I think I've had a much more interesting career - and more opportunities for a life outside work - than most of them.
 
If anyone has questions about opportunities for lawyers in knowledge management, government affairs or working in international affairs or for international agencies, I'd be happy to answer questions.

Thank you for your post! You've had a career I'd love to emulate someday. Would you mind sharing your tips on how to find in-house positions at international agencies?

Aethonan

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Re: Any Lawyer Mustachians on here?
« Reply #703 on: October 06, 2021, 12:47:31 PM »

With courage born of my growing "stache", I closed my immigration and criminal practice.


Thanks for the update, FIREby35!  It's great to hear how increasing financial independence not only helped you set work boundaries, but actually made you a better and more compassionate advocate for your clients.  I've recently transitioned into being an independent contractor doing public sector work for a private firm, and feel no pressure to make a project fill up an arbitrary target of billable hours.  It's shocking what a difference that makes, even if it's just psychological.  I like the idea that, if being FI helps us make decisions according to our values (by removing any tendency to be guided by chasing $$), then it is necessarily making us better lawyers too. :)

FIREby35

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Re: Any Lawyer Mustachians on here?
« Reply #704 on: October 06, 2021, 01:18:35 PM »

With courage born of my growing "stache", I closed my immigration and criminal practice.


Thanks for the update, FIREby35!  It's great to hear how increasing financial independence not only helped you set work boundaries, but actually made you a better and more compassionate advocate for your clients.  I've recently transitioned into being an independent contractor doing public sector work for a private firm, and feel no pressure to make a project fill up an arbitrary target of billable hours.  It's shocking what a difference that makes, even if it's just psychological.  I like the idea that, if being FI helps us make decisions according to our values (by removing any tendency to be guided by chasing $$), then it is necessarily making us better lawyers too. :)

I agree 100%.

 

Wow, a phone plan for fifteen bucks!