Poll

Do you like being a lawyer?

Yes, my job is awesome. Law school was the best choice I ever made.
8 (9.3%)
I like practicing law. I just hate law firms.
26 (30.2%)
It's not my calling in life, but the money is good. Will do it for now.
34 (39.5%)
It's bullshit. I'm just going to pay off my debt/save a bit then quit.
9 (10.5%)
It's pure hell. The modern legal industry is screwed up. I want out.
9 (10.5%)

Total Members Voted: 86

Author Topic: Survey for Mustachian Lawyers  (Read 6127 times)

Southern Dude

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Survey for Mustachian Lawyers
« on: June 13, 2013, 11:59:24 PM »
Hello fellow Mustachian lawyers. I’ve only been lurking around the MMM forum for a few months, but is it just me or are there TONS of lawyers here? I think we may even outnumber the computer programmers. Seriously. If you don’t believe me, feel free to peruse some of the lawyer-related posts and comments below (many of which fall in the “I’m a lawyer and my life sucks” genre).
One thing I've noticed from the comments is that some of us like our job and some of us hate our job. So, I thought I would bust out a little survey to see which way the mustachian lawyers lean. I realize this is kind of a stupid survey, given that this is, after all, a blog about early retirement. If we were happy with our highly-paid lawyer jobs why would we spend our time, which we could be billing to clients, hanging out on this random dude's blog and dreaming about financial independence.  But, then again, I'm surprised to see a number of posts from lawyers who really like their jobs. I'm just wondering if there are tons of unhappy lawyers lurking around here, or if many of us actually enjoy our work, but also just happen to enjoy the idea of FI at the same time.

myDogIsFI

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Re: Survey for Mustachian Lawyers
« Reply #1 on: June 14, 2013, 08:23:46 AM »
I picked "I like practicing law. I just hate law firms."

But I don't even really hate law firms.  I just hate my billable hours requirement.  I think I would be happy if I could slash my hours in half.  I doubt this is possible in my big firm.

totoro

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Re: Survey for Mustachian Lawyers
« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2013, 08:28:51 AM »
Thanks for the survey.  Yes, there are a lot  of lawyers here, but there were not always.  When I joined I didn't know of any others for a while.

I think the numbers have shot up in the last 6 months.  As more law topics are posted I think lawyers, who are great researchers, probably hit on the posts as part of a search.  My guess is that the numbers will climb more in the coming months.

Rebecca Stapler

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Re: Survey for Mustachian Lawyers
« Reply #3 on: June 14, 2013, 08:44:42 AM »
I like 70% of my job. I wish I was paid more and had less stress, but as a lawyer with under 10 years' experience, I think I'm paying my dues and am hoping it will get better. I've had a few other jobs before this one though, and I chose this one with my eyes wide open after rejecting / not pursuing other opportunities that I didn't think were the right choice for me for various reasons.

Unfortunately, with a high debt load and tough legal job market, I think many lawyers take the jobs that will pay their bills instead of the jobs that can contribute to (or at least not sabotage) their happiness.
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chesebert

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Re: Survey for Mustachian Lawyers
« Reply #4 on: June 14, 2013, 10:20:48 AM »
I like 70% of my job. I wish I was paid more and had less stress, but as a lawyer with under 10 years' experience, I think I'm paying my dues and am hoping it will get better. I've had a few other jobs before this one though, and I chose this one with my eyes wide open after rejecting / not pursuing other opportunities that I didn't think were the right choice for me for various reasons.

Unfortunately, with a high debt load and tough legal job market, I think many lawyers take the jobs that will pay their bills instead of the jobs that can contribute to (or at least not sabotage) their happiness.

I think you will feel less stress as you get closer to FI. I am at a point that I have already paid off my debt and have enough in investment to allow me to hit FI in less than 5 years' time. I think I am becoming more like Peter from the office space in that I feel confident to freely express my opinons and disagree with partners (which strangely they seem to appreciate).

The amount of work still sucks, but I don't feel all that stressed, except for signing and closing times.

hoodedfalcon

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Re: Survey for Mustachian Lawyers
« Reply #5 on: June 14, 2013, 10:22:00 AM »
I don't think I hate the practice of law so much as I am sick of paying on my law school loans. I work at a non-profit doing policy work, so I like the work, but it doesn't pay well. Actually, it pays fine since my needs are simple and I live in a low COL, but so much of my take home goes to loan repayment every month I sorta feel like I am spinning my wheels in a nasty muddy chasm of blah.

However, I really just want to be FI, make pottery, and grow vegetables at my cabin in the woods. So dreamy. The loans keep that dream at bay.

I am not a typical lawyer type, especially for the deep and dirty South, so that has been an interesting challenge. Then again, I think I would be a fish out of water in this town regardless.

StarryC

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Re: Survey for Mustachian Lawyers
« Reply #6 on: June 14, 2013, 11:07:41 AM »
Clicked like job/hate law firms.  But actually, I think the problems I have are similar to a lot of work places.  I hate entering billable time, my hours requirement isnt' too high, but I just hate keeping track.  I hate the office politics and figuring out how to get which important people to like you/ give you work.  I think similar things would be true in any job- Police officers hate doing reports, doctors hate dealing with billing.

I wouldn't say it was the best decision because right now I feel like it's a wash.  I'll be able to pay off my loans.  But, had I not gone to law school and worked as a paralegal I might be slightly less happy with the work but I'd work less, and have about an equal income after netting out the loan payments and other required expenses of lawyer-hood. 

My best hope is that I'm wrong, and that over my lifetime my income net after loans will be greater, and that after the loans are paid off I'll have a ton of flexibility.  We'll see.

kelly1mm

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Re: Survey for Mustachian Lawyers
« Reply #7 on: June 14, 2013, 12:24:02 PM »
I picked 'not my calling in life'.  I absolutely LOVED law school and being a law clerk after that.  Practicing law on the other hand I found was not for me.  I still do it part time working for the Court system as a contractor (I run low income family law clinics in 2 counties) but make most of my income doing tax work - not really law, more accounting.

lucypie

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Re: Survey for Mustachian Lawyers
« Reply #8 on: June 14, 2013, 12:37:31 PM »
I probably should have picked "love practicing law but hate law firms" but I have become so jaded by lawyers, law firms, clients and courts, that at this point, I find it all BS.  The political nature of the firm, the nitpicking by clients who refuse to listen to your advise and who then don't want to pay you, the schmoozing required to get new clients, the seeming rarity of actual justice, and that doesn't even touch the life sucking practice of billing hours and the minimum billiable requirement.  Occasionally, I actually feel like I helped some individual, but that is so rare that it just does not make up for the other. 

I stumbled upon MMM a little over a year ago and started agressively changing the way I lived my life.  Instead of spending money on things to distract me from everything I hated, I started planning my exit.  Theoretically I'm on a 10 year plan, but knowing that I could walk out any day and be ok has made me a MUCH happier person.  Funny, a lawyer I work with told me a while back that I had changed, thinking I had finally come in to my own here.  I just smiled, counting the days...

TrulyStashin

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Re: Survey for Mustachian Lawyers
« Reply #9 on: June 14, 2013, 01:31:01 PM »
I probably should have picked "love practicing law but hate law firms" but I have become so jaded by lawyers, law firms, clients and courts, that at this point, I find it all BS.  The political nature of the firm, the nitpicking by clients who refuse to listen to your advise and who then don't want to pay you, the schmoozing required to get new clients, the seeming rarity of actual justice, and that doesn't even touch the life sucking practice of billing hours and the minimum billiable requirement. 

AMEN to this. 

I've had perpetually low hours all year long and am chronically worried that I'll get the ax in January (am job hunting).  Yet, partners keep giving me pro bono projects or practice development stuff to work on then when the work comes in, they do it.  I've spent most of my day today on stuff that is not at all billable or for clients who don't pay their bills.    For the third time today, the partner I work for has stopped in with an URGENT need for something that he could get himself by picking up the phone and calling the right person (e.g. marketing material for a pitch he's doing -- I called marketing).    The other bits I'm working on are for a client who should get the award for Worst Businessman of All Time Ever.   I'm drafting yet another contract for him to use on a deal that will never actually go anywhere.  And he doesn't pay his bill.

Law firms are ridiculous with an inherently flawed business model.  Can't wait to go elsewhere.
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Lina

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Re: Survey for Mustachian Lawyers
« Reply #10 on: June 14, 2013, 02:30:59 PM »
I mostly like what I am doing but then I work for the government in a field that I like. I am mostly expressing my honest opinions and I have noticed that most managers like it. I am being seen as a person that contribute with ideas and I guess that I also have an ability to drop things that annoys me and go on after decisions that I don't like have been made. I am usually pretty good at packaging stuff so that it fits office politics and so that the managers like to use my ideas.

What makes a difference for me is that if I don't like the job I can quit and move with a months notice. I keep my fixed costs low so I can survive a pretty long time without work or find something else.

hybrid

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Re: Survey for Mustachian Lawyers
« Reply #11 on: June 14, 2013, 02:45:28 PM »
I'm the IT guy at a law firm so I did not choose one of the above, but I am surprised at how many lawyers claim to be utterly dissatisfied with law and yet turnover at our firm is really low.  So methinks some of them doth protest too much.  Or just can't figure out how to get off the merry-go-round.  But I suspect the former because many of our attorneys work into their 70s and I doubt they need the money at that point.  Having talked to other sysadmins, I think I just got really lucky to land at a good firm.
Life is a game. Play it better.

Aloysius_Poutine

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Re: Survey for Mustachian Lawyers
« Reply #12 on: June 14, 2013, 05:46:44 PM »
I'm just here to watch. I didn't get into the one law school I applied to this year, so I'm rewriting the LSAT in October and applying again for Sept 2014. There is a good chance I'll get in and pursue that road. Best to go in with both eyes open. So, thanks for the opinions and experiences you lawyers freely share here.

Undecided

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Re: Survey for Mustachian Lawyers
« Reply #13 on: June 14, 2013, 05:53:34 PM »
I didn't answer, because I know that today's answer may not be the same as tomorrow's, and would probably only have been my answer 70% of the time over the past few years and 30% of the time over several years before that. In other words: Needs some context to mean anything.

RobinAZ

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Re: Survey for Mustachian Lawyers
« Reply #14 on: June 14, 2013, 06:04:52 PM »
I like practicing law. I just hate law firms.  THEY are BS, and I am just paying off my loans and then I am free to do what I want.... actually PRACTICE law and help people. 

dragoncar

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Re: Survey for Mustachian Lawyers
« Reply #15 on: June 14, 2013, 06:35:20 PM »
I like practicing law.  I'd take a 75% pay cut for a similar reduction in hours.  Likely after I FI, I will try to meet my living expenses by taking one-off projects (maybe overflow from my current firm if I can convince them).

Southern Dude

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Re: Survey for Mustachian Lawyers
« Reply #16 on: June 15, 2013, 01:15:06 AM »
I see a common theme here. Many of us enjoy the practice of law; we just don't like all of the bullshit that comes with the legal industry, such as billable hours, high stress, huge loans for law school, law firm politics, etc. So, the question becomes whether the practice is enjoyable enough to put up with the bullshit, or whether the bullshit is just so thick that it's not even worth it.

Another common theme I see is that many of us believe that achieving a certain degree of FI, or at least clearing the law school debt hurdle, will give us the freedom to strike out and try and find something better. That raises another question. How much FI do you need before you're willing to make that move? What's your F-you number?

We're all cognizant of the fact that the market is saturated with lawyers. We're also risk averse because, well, we're tightly wound lawyers. Giving up a highly-paid and stable job is a big risk, a tough decision, and frankly, pretty damn scary. If I had a family depending on me to pay the bills, or a large high-interest loan hanging over my head, I'm not sure I could take that risk. Then again, how long can you stay in a job you don't enjoy? How long can you stay in a job you totally hate? It's not healthy, it's not good for your career, and it's not how you should spend your limited time on this earth.

Damn these are hard questions.

ps - for the one person who voted "It's pure hell", c'mon let's hear the story! I love law firm horror stories.
« Last Edit: June 15, 2013, 01:22:46 AM by Southern Dude »

Lina

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Re: Survey for Mustachian Lawyers
« Reply #17 on: June 15, 2013, 03:12:14 AM »
It seems like almost everyone defines practicing law by working in a law firm. There are a lot of lawyers that don't work at a law firm with the crazy hours but rather at companies and government agencies with interesting assignments but with more reasonable hours. And of course less pay but still ok pay in relation to the demands on you.

chesebert

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Re: Survey for Mustachian Lawyers
« Reply #18 on: June 15, 2013, 12:39:16 PM »
I see a common theme here. Many of us enjoy the practice of law; we just don't like all of the bullshit that comes with the legal industry, such as billable hours, high stress, huge loans for law school, law firm politics, etc. So, the question becomes whether the practice is enjoyable enough to put up with the bullshit, or whether the bullshit is just so thick that it's not even worth it.

Another common theme I see is that many of us believe that achieving a certain degree of FI, or at least clearing the law school debt hurdle, will give us the freedom to strike out and try and find something better. That raises another question. How much FI do you need before you're willing to make that move? What's your F-you number?

We're all cognizant of the fact that the market is saturated with lawyers. We're also risk averse because, well, we're tightly wound lawyers. Giving up a highly-paid and stable job is a big risk, a tough decision, and frankly, pretty damn scary. If I had a family depending on me to pay the bills, or a large high-interest loan hanging over my head, I'm not sure I could take that risk. Then again, how long can you stay in a job you don't enjoy? How long can you stay in a job you totally hate? It's not healthy, it's not good for your career, and it's not how you should spend your limited time on this earth.

Damn these are hard questions.

ps - for the one person who voted "It's pure hell", c'mon let's hear the story! I love law firm horror stories.
I think the debt problem should be easy to overcome for Mustachians in general. I worked during all three years of law school up to the maximum number of hours allowed under the ABA rules. As a result, I came out of school with less than 1/2 of what most of my classmates owe. Sure, I had to skip moot court, take a few P/Fs and didn't get a single article published. But I think the minor set back in my academic aspirations was well worth it for me financially.  I am three years out and I have already paid off all my loans. Since I started practicing, I have increased my networth by over 100k per year. Combined with what I have saved before law school, I am sitting north of 500k in investiable assets (not counting rental property). I expect to be FI in 2-3 years (according to the FIRE calculator), but will probably work until I am up for partnership (or out), as that's only really an additional 1-2 years.

So for any MMM reader considering going to law school, you should definitely consider working during law school and try to live as frugally as practicable. By following this advice and other tips from the website, you will be well on your way to FI by the time you hit partnership (or well before that), rather than struggling to pay off your student loan as a senior associate.

« Last Edit: June 15, 2013, 12:43:36 PM by chesebert »

biglawinvestor

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Re: Survey for Mustachian Lawyers
« Reply #19 on: May 03, 2017, 09:55:07 AM »
This survey is great! I picked "It's not my calling in life, but the money is good. Will do it for now."

I'm genuinely surprised by the lack of lawyers that picked "this is bullshit, I'm quitting". You wouldn't know it from our profession, but it seems like a Lawyer Mustachians are actually relatively happy with their job as a lawyer.

BFGirl

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Re: Survey for Mustachian Lawyers
« Reply #20 on: May 03, 2017, 10:02:47 AM »
I'm not sure how to respond.  I am very glad I went to law school because of opportunities that it has opened up for me.  I am in government now and the only part of the practice of law I miss is the mental challenge of solving problems relating to contract negotiations.  On the other hand, I am bored at my current job, but make okay money and will have a pension.

I doubt that I will ever go back to a traditional practice of law, but if I could solely do work on contracts without having to deal with billable hours, I might think about it.

BFGirl

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Re: Survey for Mustachian Lawyers
« Reply #21 on: May 03, 2017, 10:08:24 AM »
I'm the IT guy at a law firm so I did not choose one of the above, but I am surprised at how many lawyers claim to be utterly dissatisfied with law and yet turnover at our firm is really low.  So methinks some of them doth protest too much.  Or just can't figure out how to get off the merry-go-round.  But I suspect the former because many of our attorneys work into their 70s and I doubt they need the money at that point.  Having talked to other sysadmins, I think I just got really lucky to land at a good firm.

I'd love to be the IT guy/girl at a law firm.  Dream job!  I have some tech certs and I understand what lawyers and IT actually do :)  At my current job, I am the translator between my department and IT (such that some people in the IT dept would like me to work for them).

edit:  shoot...didn't realize this is a really old thread
« Last Edit: May 03, 2017, 10:10:41 AM by BFGirl »

GU

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Re: Survey for Mustachian Lawyers
« Reply #22 on: May 03, 2017, 10:25:19 AM »
I'm the IT guy at a law firm so I did not choose one of the above, but I am surprised at how many lawyers claim to be utterly dissatisfied with law and yet turnover at our firm is really low.  So methinks some of them doth protest too much.  Or just can't figure out how to get off the merry-go-round.  But I suspect the former because many of our attorneys work into their 70s and I doubt they need the money at that point.  Having talked to other sysadmins, I think I just got really lucky to land at a good firm.

In big law, turnover is almost comically high. The Richmond, VA legal market is probably different than NY/DC/CHI/LA/SF.

TPGW

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Re: Survey for Mustachian Lawyers
« Reply #23 on: May 03, 2017, 10:36:29 AM »
Quote
Another common theme I see is that many of us believe that achieving a certain degree of FI, or at least clearing the law school debt hurdle, will give us the freedom to strike out and try and find something better. That raises another question. How much FI do you need before you're willing to make that move? What's your F-you number?

This is me.  I'm a litigator and like some aspects of the work (writing, oral argument, problem solving) but get frustrated with the pedantic, petty bickering that comes with the territory.  I may one day find a legal job I love, but there may also come a day when I can't take it anymore.  Savings for me is a hedge for if and when that day comes.   

1 million is my number.  If I can get there I'll have the freedom to make job and career choices without being concerned about money.  It'll take 10-15 years to get there, but I don't feel any real urgency at the moment, so that's fine with me.       

dude

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Re: Survey for Mustachian Lawyers
« Reply #24 on: May 03, 2017, 11:31:45 AM »
Not my calling in life by any stretch, but it's afforded me a good life for the past 20 years and I only have to do it for 2 more years.  After that, I'll be canceling my bar membership. I don't ever want to practice law again.

Laura33

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Re: Survey for Mustachian Lawyers
« Reply #25 on: May 03, 2017, 07:48:52 PM »
I appear to be one of very few who picked the "it!s awesome/best decision I could have made" option.  I don't love practicing every day, so that feels like an overstatement.  But the reality is that I don't like to do *anything* every day; even my Grandma's homemade macaroni and cheese casserole, which is God's gift to food everywhere, wears kind of thin after 4-5 straight days.  Or maybe 6. 

The parts I don't like about my current job have more to do with the "job" part of it than the "law" part.  And given that I was not born with a trust fund and have to work for a living, being a lawyer was far and away the best choice I could have made.  At least in the universe of jobs I am both aware of and somewhat qualified to do.
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OthalaFehu

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Re: Survey for Mustachian Lawyers
« Reply #26 on: May 04, 2017, 08:09:05 AM »
government lawyer is the way to go, money is decent and the work is 9-5. Being a prosecutor was stressful, but now I have transitioned to the other side of the bench and I am finally really in like with my job
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Reynold

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Re: Survey for Mustachian Lawyers
« Reply #27 on: May 04, 2017, 09:01:15 AM »
In big law, turnover is almost comically high. The Richmond, VA legal market is probably different than NY/DC/CHI/LA/SF.

I'm not a lawyer, but a friend who worked at a DC area patent law firm joined a 80 person firm as employee number 80.  Two years later he was something like employee number 6, the other 74 had turned over already.  It sounded pretty killer, they had people leave to go to lunch and not come back. 

OurTown

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Re: Survey for Mustachian Lawyers
« Reply #28 on: May 04, 2017, 09:25:07 AM »
I will have more positive things to say about the practice after I am FIREd and no longer doing it.

Ms. Frugal Lawyer

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Re: Survey for Mustachian Lawyers
« Reply #29 on: May 04, 2017, 09:46:07 AM »
I voted that law school is the best decision I ever made.  But I'm in-house working 8-4:30 and have been for 11 of my 13 years as a lawyer.  I agree that law firms suck.  If I hadn't found my way in-house, I wouldn't have lasted 5 years as a lawyer. 

I took a 50% pay cut when I went in-house and I'm so glad I did.  The pay went up fairly quickly and while it's still much less than being a partner, I'm so much happier.  But I was able to do that b/c I went to a lower tier law school on full scholarship and bought a house in the "transitioning" part of town.  Partners at the firm though I was crazy for buying where I did, but I knew I wanted financial freedom.     

ZiziPB

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Re: Survey for Mustachian Lawyers
« Reply #30 on: May 04, 2017, 09:56:43 AM »
I voted that law school is the best decision I ever made.  But I'm in-house working 8-4:30 and have been for 11 of my 13 years as a lawyer.  I agree that law firms suck.  If I hadn't found my way in-house, I wouldn't have lasted 5 years as a lawyer. 

I took a 50% pay cut when I went in-house and I'm so glad I did.  The pay went up fairly quickly and while it's still much less than being a partner, I'm so much happier.  But I was able to do that b/c I went to a lower tier law school on full scholarship and bought a house in the "transitioning" part of town.  Partners at the firm though I was crazy for buying where I did, but I knew I wanted financial freedom.   
+1
I am another very satisfied in-house counsel.  I don't enjoy the corporate politics where I am, but I love being a lawyer here.  And even though I took a significant paycut to go in-house it's been worth it. 
I was in biglaw before and probably would have given the same answer then, even though I worked like a dog for 10 years :-)



Happy in CA

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Re: Survey for Mustachian Lawyers
« Reply #31 on: May 04, 2017, 09:06:00 PM »
Law school was the single best decision I ever made, but it's also true that while not exactly my calling, it was the most financially rewarding career I could get so I stuck with it.  So I chose number two, because for the most part I enjoyed being a lawyer.  When coming out of law school I knew big law was not for me, so I went straight to a public defender's office for about half the salary that my classmates in big firms were getting.  I loved the job for a long time, and by the time the stress and office BS started catching up to me, the golden handcuffs were firmly locked.  I stayed for 20+ years and FIRE'd with a good pension a few years ago.   

If I could do it all over again, I would do it all over again.

blinx7

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Re: Survey for Mustachian Lawyers
« Reply #32 on: January 13, 2018, 10:46:20 AM »
I can't check any of these boxes, none of them perfectly apply. 

I have mixed feelings about being a lawyer, due to the cost of school, intensity of work (both hours and deadlines) and sometimes the type of work (some very complex, but plenty of paper pushing).  I was a liberal arts slacker with good test taking abilities and so my high GPA and LSAT was perfect for law school.  If I had to do a do-over, I would have gone the science and math route because I was a well-rounded student and actually got good grades in those subjects.  I just chose liberal arts out of interest / intertia / laziness not because I was necessarily running away from or couldn't do math or science.  I didn't fully understand how much undergrad major matters nowadays, and I bought the "major in what you want and figure it out later" line, which I disagree with in retrospect.  I am going to tell my kids to double-major (or do a major and minor if that's too difficult) -- one practical thing for job purposes that is reasonably interesting but mostly goal oriented and then one thing that has no purpose other than intellectual curiosity.  I double-majored, but not very strategically.  :) 

With no other plan in life other than to try to earn an high income with a liberal arts degree, off to law school I went.  I know financially this plan did not work for many, but mercifully it still held true for me. 

Working at a large law firm was extremely difficult and I was glad to leave, but I banked a big stash in four years.  I ended up working even harder than the average (very hard working) associate.  This was not really necessary or even useful in retrospect (I damaged my health, and my stress level was so high it took more than a year to recover and feel like a normal person again, and in return I got very slightly higher bonuses -- maybe 15k more than market in all in aggregate).  I think psychologically I needed to prove to myself that I wasn't a slacker.   Working in an intense law firm gave me more grit, which is not a great way to spend life but also not a bad thing to have when you need it. 

I work in a smaller law firm now.  Less intense but still not 40 hours a week -- usually 45 with spikes to 50 or more rarely 60 (all very intense, focused hours too -- very little goofing off).  We represent very sophisticated nonprofits in complex transactions, so there is always stuff to learn and I feel good about the end product.  If I had to do it over I'd pick the hardest math classes that I could handle and then try to get a quant job -- focusing on those with reasonable hours rather than the highest pay.  The reason is simple supply and demand.  The skill is more rare and so it is easier to negotiate what you want (pay increase, certain type of work, work from home, part time, etc.).  For a lawyer you basically need to "take the deal" (high pay, longish hours, lots of deadlines, some interesting work and some crap that just needs to get done, etc.) or hang your own shingle and figure it out on your own.   In house and gov't may be better, but only if you find the right place with the right fit.   

I also am a pretty senior associate and not sure about the timeline for, or my interest in, partner or senior counsel.  Luckily I've  saved and invested a lot, which gives me a lot of psychological freedom but then also saps my motivation a bit.  I do enough to get good reviews but I am never working like a maniac or damaging my health again, even if it puts me at risk of not getting a promotion or even getting fired.  Not sure of next steps but will continue on the path for another year or two and make hay while the sun shines. 
« Last Edit: January 13, 2018, 10:57:45 AM by blinx7 »

MrThatsDifferent

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Re: Survey for Mustachian Lawyers
« Reply #33 on: January 13, 2018, 04:25:31 PM »
You need: wasn’t for me, so found something else that’s related

lexde

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Re: Survey for Mustachian Lawyers
« Reply #34 on: January 13, 2018, 05:13:53 PM »
I'm 1.5 years into being a lawyer so I am not sure if it gets net-better or not.

The first year of so of practicing law was the most stressful year of my life, bar none. And I've had some pretty stressful s**t to deal with. Panic attacks, cycles of anxiety and depression, the whole nine with this first year of practice.

Now, it's getting a little better, I feel like I am sort of starting to hit my stride. I like the challenge, and the "chess moves" involved in litigation. Still super stressful though.

Being in a law firm, especially doing insurance/WC defense, sucks. The billing hour requirement is too high (because we bill "honest time" which means no mandatory minimums, no padding, no shadow billing) because to get an 8-hour billable day, I'm in the office 10...11... hours per day. Once I manage to bill that out, I have to justify it to the partner, who wants to cut my time before sending it to the client, who wants to cut my time again.

I think the only way that I will survive this is to find something in-house. I am on a 6-year partnership track and a senior partner has taken a very deep interest in me (very good, albeit difficult at times mentor-mentee relationship) so I have no doubts that I could make partner in 6 years. But I have no idea what senior/junior partners make, and it's certainly not as much as plaintiff firms.

Right now I'm making 65K. That's decent, for a first year attorney in my area, but vacation/time off is limited, and I'm working 9-10 hour days 90% of the time. I would much rather make less and work less than aim for partnership and stroke out in the process.

lexde

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Re: Survey for Mustachian Lawyers
« Reply #35 on: January 13, 2018, 05:15:51 PM »
I voted that law school is the best decision I ever made.  But I'm in-house working 8-4:30 and have been for 11 of my 13 years as a lawyer.  I agree that law firms suck.  If I hadn't found my way in-house, I wouldn't have lasted 5 years as a lawyer. 

I took a 50% pay cut when I went in-house and I'm so glad I did.  The pay went up fairly quickly and while it's still much less than being a partner, I'm so much happier.  But I was able to do that b/c I went to a lower tier law school on full scholarship and bought a house in the "transitioning" part of town.  Partners at the firm though I was crazy for buying where I did, but I knew I wanted financial freedom.   
+1
I am another very satisfied in-house counsel.  I don't enjoy the corporate politics where I am, but I love being a lawyer here.  And even though I took a significant paycut to go in-house it's been worth it. 
I was in biglaw before and probably would have given the same answer then, even though I worked like a dog for 10 years :-)

How did you find an in-house job?

Suit

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Re: Survey for Mustachian Lawyers
« Reply #36 on: January 13, 2018, 05:30:19 PM »
As others here have pointed out it's not the law that's the problem, it's the BS that is. I definitely thought that the one option that mentioned liking the law but not the firm should have instead been but not the BS and then I would have voted for it.

I was a prosecutor for 6.5 years and got so sick of the BS that I left to go in-house doing insurance defense for a pay cut. Generally it's way better but there is still a level of BS that I feel that I will eventually get sick of. Hopefully by that time I've got enough to pull the plug or try yet another legal job to see if that fits better.

Tabaxus

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Re: Survey for Mustachian Lawyers
« Reply #37 on: January 14, 2018, 07:01:30 PM »
I picked the "not my calling" option, but I don't know if that quite describes it correctly.  I don't know where exactly I fit into all of it and what the optimal situation for me would be.

Going to law school ended up paying off very well for me, but I'm lucky with where I ended up.  I paid off my (massive, $160k+) law school loans years ago, so if I wanted to abandon it all, I could (though I now have a little one coming, so I'm not as free to do this as I was this time last year). I  have a lot more money in the bank (around $650k tax-effected, $730k gross, not including home equity) than I would have had I not gone to law school and stayed on the track I was on (which was a track to effectively nothing--I have no idea where I would be now if I had not gone to law school, but I don't think it would have been anywhere good).  There are a lot of things that I REALLY like about my job.  I really like the firm/group I'm at and have a very high degree of loyalty to them.  I find the work to be very intellectually stimulating.  (By contrast, when I occasionally dip my toes into the academic side of things, I'm not a big fan, so the lawprof escape hatch isn't for me.  I like teaching classes, but I hate grading, and I HATE writing articles, especially the worthless schlecht that passes for Law Review articles.)    I have harsh hours, but not as harsh as a lot of biglaw attorneys in major markets (I'm in one of the speciality practices and we typically don't bill quite as many hours, though our hours are just as all-encompassing, i.e., we're never really "off").

I can confidently say that it would be my dream job if I could transition to a role in which (a) I could pick exactly what matters I want to work on, (b) I only had the expectation of around 1600 billed hours per year, and only would get paid my base pay without bonus, (c) I could actually take a real vacation (this is probably the hardest part--the inability to safely plan any time away), and (d) I DIDNT HAVE TO BILL TIME. 

(Seriously, without any other changes at all, I would take a 20% paycut, and maybe more if I never had to bill time again.  Even if the general hours/productivity expectation was EXACTLY the same, billing time is such a life-killing time-suck, it's easily my least favorite part of the job, and it's also a cancer in terms of the incentives it sets up for everyone in the entire structure.  I know there are firms that have a no-billables model, but (a) I'm not a litigation attorney, which is where the no-billables model has caught on more and (b) I'm not really 'good enough' to get a job at one of those places--they're rarified.)

Edit to add:  I probably shouldn't have participated in the poll, in that I'm a fake/imposter mustachian.  I have no idea what my spending was last year, but... definitely not mustachian.  Much to my annoyance. 

Edit to add further:  Of course this all could become irrelevant in a couple of years if/when I get booted in the "up or out" model, so I'd better figure out what the hell is next...  I might have enough money saved by then that I could have actually eeked out FI, or something close to it, by then, but for the young one on the way.  But, counterpoint to that is that a 4-year undergrad at Harvard is projected to cost $750k in 18 years (assuming 5% YOY increase in tuition).   So.  Nope. 
« Last Edit: January 14, 2018, 07:10:39 PM by Tabaxus »

blinx7

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Re: Survey for Mustachian Lawyers
« Reply #38 on: January 15, 2018, 08:58:50 AM »
I'm 1.5 years into being a lawyer so I am not sure if it gets net-better or not.

The first year of so of practicing law was the most stressful year of my life, bar none. And I've had some pretty stressful s**t to deal with. Panic attacks, cycles of anxiety and depression, the whole nine with this first year of practice.

Now, it's getting a little better, I feel like I am sort of starting to hit my stride. I like the challenge, and the "chess moves" involved in litigation. Still super stressful though.

Being in a law firm, especially doing insurance/WC defense, sucks. The billing hour requirement is too high (because we bill "honest time" which means no mandatory minimums, no padding, no shadow billing) because to get an 8-hour billable day, I'm in the office 10...11... hours per day. Once I manage to bill that out, I have to justify it to the partner, who wants to cut my time before sending it to the client, who wants to cut my time again.

I think the only way that I will survive this is to find something in-house. I am on a 6-year partnership track and a senior partner has taken a very deep interest in me (very good, albeit difficult at times mentor-mentee relationship) so I have no doubts that I could make partner in 6 years. But I have no idea what senior/junior partners make, and it's certainly not as much as plaintiff firms.

Right now I'm making 65K. That's decent, for a first year attorney in my area, but vacation/time off is limited, and I'm working 9-10 hour days 90% of the time. I would much rather make less and work less than aim for partnership and stroke out in the process.

It gets better. 

Unless you have a rare skill (whiz in computer programming, such that its monetizeable now and sustainably) I would stick with being a lawyer.  Your income should continue to rise and working conditions should continue to improve.  The longer you work, also, the more you will be able to work independently and see yourself as the sort of person who can convince a client to pay you, say, $200 per hour for your services.

One great FIRE option for lawyers is to work until you are sufficiently skilled to start your own practice, and then do so and set your own hours.  That's my default backup plan.  Nobody needs to know but me if I am working 25 hours per week at my own firm instead of 60 hours per week as long as I can pay my bills. 

Lots of lawyers are struggling when they start their own practice, but they have student debt and no experience.  I have a stash and skills, experience, contacts.  Totally different. 

blinx7

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Re: Survey for Mustachian Lawyers
« Reply #39 on: January 15, 2018, 09:02:31 AM »
I picked the "not my calling" option, but I don't know if that quite describes it correctly.  I don't know where exactly I fit into all of it and what the optimal situation for me would be.

Going to law school ended up paying off very well for me, but I'm lucky with where I ended up.  I paid off my (massive, $160k+) law school loans years ago, so if I wanted to abandon it all, I could (though I now have a little one coming, so I'm not as free to do this as I was this time last year). I  have a lot more money in the bank (around $650k tax-effected, $730k gross, not including home equity) than I would have had I not gone to law school and stayed on the track I was on (which was a track to effectively nothing--I have no idea where I would be now if I had not gone to law school, but I don't think it would have been anywhere good).  There are a lot of things that I REALLY like about my job.  I really like the firm/group I'm at and have a very high degree of loyalty to them.  I find the work to be very intellectually stimulating.  (By contrast, when I occasionally dip my toes into the academic side of things, I'm not a big fan, so the lawprof escape hatch isn't for me.  I like teaching classes, but I hate grading, and I HATE writing articles, especially the worthless schlecht that passes for Law Review articles.)    I have harsh hours, but not as harsh as a lot of biglaw attorneys in major markets (I'm in one of the speciality practices and we typically don't bill quite as many hours, though our hours are just as all-encompassing, i.e., we're never really "off").

I can confidently say that it would be my dream job if I could transition to a role in which (a) I could pick exactly what matters I want to work on, (b) I only had the expectation of around 1600 billed hours per year, and only would get paid my base pay without bonus, (c) I could actually take a real vacation (this is probably the hardest part--the inability to safely plan any time away), and (d) I DIDNT HAVE TO BILL TIME. 

(Seriously, without any other changes at all, I would take a 20% paycut, and maybe more if I never had to bill time again.  Even if the general hours/productivity expectation was EXACTLY the same, billing time is such a life-killing time-suck, it's easily my least favorite part of the job, and it's also a cancer in terms of the incentives it sets up for everyone in the entire structure.  I know there are firms that have a no-billables model, but (a) I'm not a litigation attorney, which is where the no-billables model has caught on more and (b) I'm not really 'good enough' to get a job at one of those places--they're rarified.)

Edit to add:  I probably shouldn't have participated in the poll, in that I'm a fake/imposter mustachian.  I have no idea what my spending was last year, but... definitely not mustachian.  Much to my annoyance. 

Edit to add further:  Of course this all could become irrelevant in a couple of years if/when I get booted in the "up or out" model, so I'd better figure out what the hell is next...  I might have enough money saved by then that I could have actually eeked out FI, or something close to it, by then, but for the young one on the way.  But, counterpoint to that is that a 4-year undergrad at Harvard is projected to cost $750k in 18 years (assuming 5% YOY increase in tuition).   So.  Nope.

There will be lots of education options for your kids in 18 years that don't involve spending $750k.  Trust me.

I'm planning to save something like $200-250k per kid and we will figure out the rest later.  That's still way better than most people.  I can't see myself giving away $750k to any college, even Harvard, unless my kid is some sort of wunderkind who is going to be personally tutored by a Nobel laureate.   Even then, at that point shouldn't the market correct itself and the colleges should compete to get my kid?

I'll leave the $750k tuition plan for the listless progeny of the hedge fund set. 
« Last Edit: January 15, 2018, 09:05:03 AM by blinx7 »

Undecided

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Re: Survey for Mustachian Lawyers
« Reply #40 on: January 15, 2018, 11:04:30 AM »

I can confidently say that it would be my dream job if I could transition to a role in which ... (c) I could actually take a real vacation (this is probably the hardest part--the inability to safely plan any time away) ... . 


Although I have a far-better-than-normal law firm job, vacation intrusion remains a struggle, especially now that my kids are old enough to really take an issue with how work intrudes into family time, and my spouse's patience for working around it has worn thin. It is a major part of why I would leave (but not the only reason).

Aelias

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Re: Survey for Mustachian Lawyers
« Reply #41 on: January 15, 2018, 11:27:53 AM »
"I like practicing law. I just hate law firms."

I went from bad law firm job, to way better law firm job, to in house.  Provided you're a good match with the company and you're ok with not being in court anymore, in house is the way to be.

lexde

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Re: Survey for Mustachian Lawyers
« Reply #42 on: January 15, 2018, 04:11:21 PM »
I'm 1.5 years into being a lawyer so I am not sure if it gets net-better or not.

The first year of so of practicing law was the most stressful year of my life, bar none. And I've had some pretty stressful s**t to deal with. Panic attacks, cycles of anxiety and depression, the whole nine with this first year of practice.

Now, it's getting a little better, I feel like I am sort of starting to hit my stride. I like the challenge, and the "chess moves" involved in litigation. Still super stressful though.

Being in a law firm, especially doing insurance/WC defense, sucks. The billing hour requirement is too high (because we bill "honest time" which means no mandatory minimums, no padding, no shadow billing) because to get an 8-hour billable day, I'm in the office 10...11... hours per day. Once I manage to bill that out, I have to justify it to the partner, who wants to cut my time before sending it to the client, who wants to cut my time again.

I think the only way that I will survive this is to find something in-house. I am on a 6-year partnership track and a senior partner has taken a very deep interest in me (very good, albeit difficult at times mentor-mentee relationship) so I have no doubts that I could make partner in 6 years. But I have no idea what senior/junior partners make, and it's certainly not as much as plaintiff firms.

Right now I'm making 65K. That's decent, for a first year attorney in my area, but vacation/time off is limited, and I'm working 9-10 hour days 90% of the time. I would much rather make less and work less than aim for partnership and stroke out in the process.

It gets better. 

Unless you have a rare skill (whiz in computer programming, such that its monetizeable now and sustainably) I would stick with being a lawyer.  Your income should continue to rise and working conditions should continue to improve.  The longer you work, also, the more you will be able to work independently and see yourself as the sort of person who can convince a client to pay you, say, $200 per hour for your services.

One great FIRE option for lawyers is to work until you are sufficiently skilled to start your own practice, and then do so and set your own hours.  That's my default backup plan.  Nobody needs to know but me if I am working 25 hours per week at my own firm instead of 60 hours per week as long as I can pay my bills. 

Lots of lawyers are struggling when they start their own practice, but they have student debt and no experience.  I have a stash and skills, experience, contacts.  Totally different.

This makes sense. I'd happily work part-time, and do it in law, if I didn't have to meticulously bill time. 95% of the stress of my job is billing/making hours/figuring out how to capture my time. And I can't really ask the other attorneys in my office how they do it... but I see some of them coming in at 8:30, leaving at 5:00, and billing 8-9 hours after taking an hour lunch. I don't know where or what they are padding, or if they're double-billing, and I don't feel like I can say "Hi I've looked at your time entries and they don't appear to match up to your attendance..." when it's a senior attorney. I feel like if I could just get the hang of billing, the job would be a lot more tolerable.

Tabaxus

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Re: Survey for Mustachian Lawyers
« Reply #43 on: January 15, 2018, 04:39:57 PM »
Alas, lots of areas of practice that don't transition at all into hanging a shingle.

#M&ALawyerProblems

LouLou

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Re: Survey for Mustachian Lawyers
« Reply #44 on: January 15, 2018, 04:53:28 PM »
This makes sense. I'd happily work part-time, and do it in law, if I didn't have to meticulously bill time. 95% of the stress of my job is billing/making hours/figuring out how to capture my time. And I can't really ask the other attorneys in my office how they do it... but I see some of them coming in at 8:30, leaving at 5:00, and billing 8-9 hours after taking an hour lunch. I don't know where or what they are padding, or if they're double-billing, and I don't feel like I can say "Hi I've looked at your time entries and they don't appear to match up to your attendance..." when it's a senior attorney. I feel like if I could just get the hang of billing, the job would be a lot more tolerable.

Keep in mind that many of them may be working at home or outside the office. I often do the more simple work at home after my little one is asleep, or I may do some simple-but-billable tasks before I leave. I can remotely access my desktop from home, but I used to print out things to take with me before that.

My best advice for billing is keeping time as you go. We have time keeping software. When I start a task, I type in the description and start the timer. When I finished the task, I stop the timer and the time entry is now complete.  If you hand-write your time, keep the pad with you at ALL TIMES and write down your tasks/times constantly.  Using the stopwatch app helped me when I still hand wrote my time. You will leave a lot of time/money on the table if you don't. Also, you may be doing billable tasks without realizing it. If you have a good mentor, you may want to ask for help.

blinx7

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Re: Survey for Mustachian Lawyers
« Reply #45 on: January 15, 2018, 05:15:37 PM »
I'm 1.5 years into being a lawyer so I am not sure if it gets net-better or not.

The first year of so of practicing law was the most stressful year of my life, bar none. And I've had some pretty stressful s**t to deal with. Panic attacks, cycles of anxiety and depression, the whole nine with this first year of practice.

Now, it's getting a little better, I feel like I am sort of starting to hit my stride. I like the challenge, and the "chess moves" involved in litigation. Still super stressful though.

Being in a law firm, especially doing insurance/WC defense, sucks. The billing hour requirement is too high (because we bill "honest time" which means no mandatory minimums, no padding, no shadow billing) because to get an 8-hour billable day, I'm in the office 10...11... hours per day. Once I manage to bill that out, I have to justify it to the partner, who wants to cut my time before sending it to the client, who wants to cut my time again.

I think the only way that I will survive this is to find something in-house. I am on a 6-year partnership track and a senior partner has taken a very deep interest in me (very good, albeit difficult at times mentor-mentee relationship) so I have no doubts that I could make partner in 6 years. But I have no idea what senior/junior partners make, and it's certainly not as much as plaintiff firms.

Right now I'm making 65K. That's decent, for a first year attorney in my area, but vacation/time off is limited, and I'm working 9-10 hour days 90% of the time. I would much rather make less and work less than aim for partnership and stroke out in the process.

It gets better. 

Unless you have a rare skill (whiz in computer programming, such that its monetizeable now and sustainably) I would stick with being a lawyer.  Your income should continue to rise and working conditions should continue to improve.  The longer you work, also, the more you will be able to work independently and see yourself as the sort of person who can convince a client to pay you, say, $200 per hour for your services.

One great FIRE option for lawyers is to work until you are sufficiently skilled to start your own practice, and then do so and set your own hours.  That's my default backup plan.  Nobody needs to know but me if I am working 25 hours per week at my own firm instead of 60 hours per week as long as I can pay my bills. 

Lots of lawyers are struggling when they start their own practice, but they have student debt and no experience.  I have a stash and skills, experience, contacts.  Totally different.

This makes sense. I'd happily work part-time, and do it in law, if I didn't have to meticulously bill time. 95% of the stress of my job is billing/making hours/figuring out how to capture my time. And I can't really ask the other attorneys in my office how they do it... but I see some of them coming in at 8:30, leaving at 5:00, and billing 8-9 hours after taking an hour lunch. I don't know where or what they are padding, or if they're double-billing, and I don't feel like I can say "Hi I've looked at your time entries and they don't appear to match up to your attendance..." when it's a senior attorney. I feel like if I could just get the hang of billing, the job would be a lot more tolerable.

I got more efficient the longer I practiced.  I used to have days where I would be there for 10 hours and bill 7, regularly.  Now if I am there 10 hours I am usually billing 8.5 - 9.5 unless there is some special long unbillable meeting.  I downloaded the Freedom app and blocked a bunch of websites on my work computer.  This forced me into the habit of wasting close to zero time and work and it has helped a lot.  I also feel guilty in the back of my head if I am wasting time and so it is psychologically easier just to work.  I do make an exception for breaks to do personal tasks (call my wife, call the plumber, YNAB) because they are important too.  If I am going to take a break, I literally step away from my desk and screen for coffee or tea rather than play on the internet.  This helps keep my mind clear.  I play on the internet plenty, just at home at night with a free conscience.    I have lots of days where I work like crazy from 9:30 - 6:15 then walk out and never check my phone.  Rinse and repeat.  People I work with are used to it by now.

I always enter my time daily because it's terrible to try to recreate things days after the fact. Most days, in the early evening once I feel my energy waning, I switch to "close down" mode and spend the last 45 minutes or so sorting e-mails, updating my to-do list, putting in time entries, etc. (the first two of those are still billable IMO) so I have things organized for the next day.  Then each morning I look at my to-do list (I use ToDoIst obsessively), pick the two or three most important tasks, and make them my daily goal, to be done without interruption from any new task unless it's an emergency.  This is easier to pull off when you are more senior and/or if your clients are more reasonable, but it helps if you try to set boundaries too (e.g., I often purposefully schedule calls for the afternoon instead of the morning). 

I try to keep track of my time closely but during the course of the day if push comes to shove it goes productive output first, timekeeping second.  I don't keep timers or worry about bathroom breaks -- my clients are hiring a highly skilled professional, not a widget.  Some days I just work backwards (e.g., I was here for 9 hours, minus 0.5 for lunch, 0.25 for calling wife so 8.25 it is, and estimate from there).  It helps that I virtually never have to dock myself for playing on the internet anymore.  I do also work from home, but that's not an every night or every weekend thing. 

It's also less oppressive because my yearly requirement is lower (1650, although I'm sure they would appreciate it if I did more). I pay for this in salary and possibly in partnership timeline (maybe even partnership chances) but it keeps me sane.  I will say I spend more time on professional reading and networking than some other associates, and I have a longer commute (45 mins) and two kids, so the folks at my firm understand I'm trying to balance professional advancement with being an active parent.  That's a large part of the reason why I chose this job when I could. 

It's harder to get these opportunities when you first start out but they start to appear 3-5 years in.  After about 10 years, most lawyers are either equity partners or have dialed back in some way. 

One thing I don't like about my firm is that there isn't much turnover so there are lots of junior partners (who I suspect are not paid a ton) and senior associates.  So there is a bit of a bottleneck which slows down career advancement.  Tradeoffs. 
« Last Edit: January 15, 2018, 05:18:37 PM by blinx7 »

lexde

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Re: Survey for Mustachian Lawyers
« Reply #46 on: January 15, 2018, 05:26:16 PM »
@blinx7 -- that definitely sounds like a trade-off. On the one hand, there's probably not much turnover because it's a decent place to work, but that definitely creates a bottleneck in terms of advancement. My firm is kind of the same way, I think there are as many junior partners as total associates (50-ish total attorneys) which seems unsustainable to me. Right now, I have a 2000-hour requirement (same for all levels) and am hitting about 1700 consistently, which creates a lot of stress. Especially because my boss hasn't trained an out-of-law-school junior associate before, and so I am expected to bill like the senior associates and partners do (i.e. cutting a lot of my own time, because clients won't pay me 5 hours to draft a settlement evaluation even though it's the first time I've looked at the case, and I can't break down file review because clients won't pay for us to look at our own file, so I capture about 2.5 hours between drafting and analysis). The associates in the other offices get to bill for everything (which goes to the 2000-hour requirement) and the partners cut it, so they are making their hours while I am not, even though I'm producing a lot more. In addition, I'm expected (for some reason) to market as though I'm a senior associate (even though every other junior associate in every other location does not), which is 10-12 hours out of my month at least. It's just not a reasonable expectation for someone who has just come out of law school, especially compared with everyone else at the same firm who are working under other equity partners. But that's the price of mentorship, I guess. I do know that once I start handling my own files/gain a little autonomy I will probably be a billing machine, since I've already been saddled with all of the expectations and none of the coddling any of the other junior associates are getting. That said, I look very bad on paper to the other senior partners in the other locations, since I am consistently "under-billing" compared to those same associates. Oh well. I hope you're right, and that it does get better. :-)

lexde

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Re: Survey for Mustachian Lawyers
« Reply #47 on: January 15, 2018, 06:12:04 PM »
This makes sense. I'd happily work part-time, and do it in law, if I didn't have to meticulously bill time. 95% of the stress of my job is billing/making hours/figuring out how to capture my time. And I can't really ask the other attorneys in my office how they do it... but I see some of them coming in at 8:30, leaving at 5:00, and billing 8-9 hours after taking an hour lunch. I don't know where or what they are padding, or if they're double-billing, and I don't feel like I can say "Hi I've looked at your time entries and they don't appear to match up to your attendance..." when it's a senior attorney. I feel like if I could just get the hang of billing, the job would be a lot more tolerable.

Keep in mind that many of them may be working at home or outside the office. I often do the more simple work at home after my little one is asleep, or I may do some simple-but-billable tasks before I leave. I can remotely access my desktop from home, but I used to print out things to take with me before that.

My best advice for billing is keeping time as you go. We have time keeping software. When I start a task, I type in the description and start the timer. When I finished the task, I stop the timer and the time entry is now complete.  If you hand-write your time, keep the pad with you at ALL TIMES and write down your tasks/times constantly.  Using the stopwatch app helped me when I still hand wrote my time. You will leave a lot of time/money on the table if you don't. Also, you may be doing billable tasks without realizing it. If you have a good mentor, you may want to ask for help.
This is good advice, and I do go to the partner frequently to say "I spent 2 hours doing XYZ, how the heck do I capture this?" but the resulting 45 minute lecture is then not billable, so it's a catch-22. I need to get better about writing down every single task. I have a notepad full of billing entries breaking down tasks sort of like a flow chart which has helped.