Author Topic: Lawyer career advice -- sabbaticals, FI, and FU  (Read 3005 times)

cheddarpie

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Lawyer career advice -- sabbaticals, FI, and FU
« on: March 08, 2016, 04:12:42 PM »
Hi everybody!

I would love to get your advice on my lawyering career and FI plans. :)

Background: I was with a big firm for several years (actually loved it, but burnt out on the location) and then joined a small firm about four years ago. It was good for a couple of years but has recently turned incredibly toxic, to the point where my physical health is starting to be affected. I've been looking for a new job for about a year, but being picky about what I apply to, in part because I felt like I could stick it out amid the drama and in part because I needed good insurance for a surgery that's now done. I am not looking at other firms because I know I'm ready for a change, so my preference is to move in house. I like legal work and being a lawyer, so I'm not ready to give that up yet, though I do have a number of creative pursuits and hobbies outside of work. My parents are on the east coast and starting to have a number of age-related difficulties; my sister is also on the east coast and going through a very toxic divorce with my 11-year-old-nephew in the mix.

It's now gotten to the point where I know I have to quit. My birthday is in early June, so I've set that as an arbitrary deadline to just quit if I don't have another job by then. I have about two years of living expenses saved up, plus rental income -- not quite FU money, but close enough. I also have about 250k in retirement accounts and will have maxed out my 401k for 2016 by June.

My first choice is to find a job that I am excited about before June. If that doesn't work out, I have a few options:

1) Take a job at a different firm. I am not excited about this, but it would keep me employed and I think it would be a pretty easy move to make. It would also keep my FIRE plans on track.

2) Just quit and plan to take a sabbatical for ~6 months, focusing on visiting and spending longer periods of time with my family, tackling some creative pursuits, and enjoying the glorious Northwest summer. Excited about this idea, but it makes me SO NERVOUS because I am lawyer and therefore extremely risk averse. It would also potentially gut my liquid savings, prevent me from investing in a rental property, and significantly slow down my FIRE plans (currently targeted for 2022), and I would spend the whole time worrying about the difficulty of finding a new job after being unemployed and quitting my previous job without a good explanation.

3) Quit and take 1-2 clients with me and hang out my shingle. In some ways this sounds much more stressful than #2, even though I'd be making some money (not a lot), because I would feel like I needed to be growing the business more and couldn't just relax and focus on the "fun" part of a sabbatical. I would still have the same stress of worrying about finding a different job later, and for some reason this seems like it looks like more of a failure (I know I shouldn't worry about the optics, but I do) than just saying "eff it all, I'm having fun."

Any advice on this?

Any lawyers out there who have successfully taken a sabbatical and then gotten back into the field without too much trouble? What was that experience like (and what's your area of expertise)?

Better to enjoy a sabbatical now and prolong FI, or try to power through and keep my FI plans on track?

Other thoughts/wisdom/support/camaraderie?

Thank you!

chesebert

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Re: Lawyer career advice -- sabbaticals, FI, and FU
« Reply #1 on: March 08, 2016, 06:28:43 PM »
Which city are you moving to? If NYC you have a lot of option, including your former firm (assuming it is an international firm).

How far away are you from FI?

I think you need to find a job that pays the highest if your goal is to get to FI ASAP in order to care for your parents and do all the other stuff you mentioned.

onlykelsey

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Re: Lawyer career advice -- sabbaticals, FI, and FU
« Reply #2 on: March 08, 2016, 06:38:28 PM »
If the idea of a shorter sabbatical (say, 3 months) is still helpful for your family/mental health goals, could you interview with a start date of, say, 9/1 in mind?

LeRainDrop

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Re: Lawyer career advice -- sabbaticals, FI, and FU
« Reply #3 on: March 08, 2016, 07:03:33 PM »
Oh, man, I totally relate to your feelings.  I'm still at my big firm, though, so no personal experience on this to share.  However, I will say that I had one attorney friend who worked about 7 years at biglaw, resigned, and took a full year sabbatical to travel all over the world with his wife -- like, really all over the world and blogging about it.  Upon returning home, he took a couple months to figure out if he wanted to go into business consulting or back into law and then settled right back in as an attorney at a different biglaw firm.

mozar

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Re: Lawyer career advice -- sabbaticals, FI, and FU
« Reply #4 on: March 08, 2016, 07:58:47 PM »
As a fellow risk adverse person, I would switch to another firm, and try to get a raise. I think your parents will be OK for awhile and you'll be available when they start to really need help.

FIREby35

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Re: Lawyer career advice -- sabbaticals, FI, and FU
« Reply #5 on: March 08, 2016, 09:22:15 PM »
I run my own small law firm and I love it. I consider it to be profitable (last 3 years, around 250k profit on 375k in Gross Receipts). No bosses and if anyone gets toxic they get fired! I know it is not for everyone, but I do enjoy it. If you go down that route, I would be strategic about the type of cases you want to target. I do regular PI work, but a Med Mal attorney friend has the same type of case load but 2.1 million in gross receipts. He picked the right specialty. So, I recommend thinking about what you would target doing after the sabbatical.

For me, the biggest competitive advantage I have in the law business is my language skills. I am bi-lingual in English and Spanish. If you take a sabbatical, you would have a huge opportunity to get a language skill while also decompressing. Whenever anyone tells me about Rosetta Stone, I shudder (on the inside) and then suggest they take a few months off, drink beer on the beach somewhere in Mexico and learn the language. It's way more fun and you actually do learn the language (instead of paying hundreds of dollars for a computer program that only makes you feel guilty when you don't use it). It doesn't have to be Spanish. I have a friend who makes a bunch of money ($80/hour, I think) doing doc review in Japanese. He can do it from anywhere and work as much as he wants. He actually has a whole separate law practice but uses the doc review as a income generator while he works on bigger contingency cases. Anyway, it could be a Japanese beach where you take your sabbatical :)


ZiziPB

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Re: Lawyer career advice -- sabbaticals, FI, and FU
« Reply #6 on: March 09, 2016, 05:11:11 AM »
What area of law are you in?  Getting an in-house is not that easy these days and you need to be strategic about it.  As much as you want a sabbatical, I wouldn't do it if your ultimate plan is to get a coveted in-house job.

Bruinguy

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Re: Lawyer career advice -- sabbaticals, FI, and FU
« Reply #7 on: March 09, 2016, 10:59:50 AM »
Tough choices coming up.  Sorry, no personal experience with your options.

It sounds like you are planning on relocating.  If so, I assume you have been searching in the new location.  My starting place would probably be to set the drop dead date for relocating and not stop the search for a suitable firm job.  If you can keep clients by serving them directly in the meantime, do that so you can bring them to your new firm and have some side income while you search.

That gets you out of the toxic environment without significant disruption to your plan.  You will also be closer to family, so you will be in a better place to help them when needed.




cheddarpie

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Re: Lawyer career advice -- sabbaticals, FI, and FU
« Reply #8 on: March 09, 2016, 08:42:02 PM »
Thanks, all!

Sorry I wasn't more clear -- I'm not planning to relocate. I think that would make it easier, but I'm staying put for the foreseeable future.

I love the idea of finding a job with a September start date, but I think it's unlikely to find that ... though I certainly won't find it if I don't try! :)

Polishing up my language skills is also a great idea, and a month in Latin America doesn't sound bad at all!

I would love to hear from anyone who's taken a sabbatical without a job lined up and successfully gotten back onto the work train.