Realistic QoL expectations for family man, T14 grad, top 1/3rd of class, minimal debt

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switchcareerdad

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Realistic QoL expectations for family man, T14 grad, top 1/3rd of class, minimal debt

Postby switchcareerdad » Mon Sep 03, 2018 11:12 pm

[Accidentally posted this in Legal Employment, just saw rules say to post this here. My bad!]

I'm a dad of three kids and married to a wonderful woman, about to jump into LS apps, and I'm trying to figure out reasonable expectations re work hours and salary after LS (assuming I pull the trigger on this). With my numbers, resume, and what we've thrown in savings over the past several years, I think it's reasonable to think that I can get into a T14 and graduate without a ton of debt. Let's say I work my butt off and finish in the top third of my class. This all might be delusions of grandeur, but let's go with it. I'm thinking more transactional than litigation FWIW

So when I finish, I'm going to be more worried about QoL than $$$ (we're used to $45k/yr). Looking through LST, the vast majority of T14 grads do biglaw, and I'm wondering if that's because they want/need the salary and prestige, or if that's pretty much their only option after graduation. I'm leery of the hours that come with biglaw because I don’t want to crap on my family, and I've talked to too many people who started biglaw when married and ended up rich and divorced. I'm okay with every so often you'll have crazy weeks/months, but I'm not interested if that's the norm. However, I'd prefer working at a small/medium firm (or big firm with not too crazy hours) at first because I want to learn my stuff and not just do lazy gov work etc.

So…is it realistic to think I can find a position where ~50hrs/wk at work is fairly common and I make something decent (let's say ~low-6-figs in coastal markets or ~high-5-figs in secondary/tertiary)? After scouring through old threads, I can't seem to find the answer to this question. TIA!

[Backstory if you're interested: Been working in education the past 10 years--teacher then school administrator--mainly overseas, but my wife came down with a super-rare neurological condition while pregnant with our third child, which forced us back to the States. She's better now, but son (almost 1yr) has health issues that will probably prevent us from returning overseas. I'm not sure I want to spend the rest of my career working with kids--sorry I said it--and I think law would be a good fit for multiple reasons. I'm from SoCal but don't mind moving--wife and I have always talked about the Rockies (Denver/Boise/etc), we have family in Louisville, so we're open.]

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inthetrenches21

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Re: Realistic QoL expectations for family man, T14 grad, top 1/3rd of class, minimal debt

Postby inthetrenches21 » Tue Sep 04, 2018 2:54 am

Law salaries coming out of law school are bimodal, either like 60k doing small gov't work or Biglaw. If you do Biglaw or 2-3 years you could leave and do in house work, you'll make ~100k and work about 50 hours a week or so. Mind you, these jobs aren't handed to you and you'll have quite a bit of work to do to land it, but that's probably what you'd be interested in. I've never heard of someone going directly to in house practice from 3L, so you'll probably need to work at least a couple years. Provided you do as well in LS as you believe, you could expect a V30 firm offer, which all service F500 companies.

Also, just as general advice, you should seriously working and living in NYC. Denver and Louisville are very small legal markets, and very difficult to land. Lawyers overwhelmingly practice in NY in part out of the massive legal market there. Coming from a lower t14, you'll probably need top 5-10% to have a serious chance at landing a job there straight out of OCI. They could have solid in house work, but again, that'd be on you to seek out.

If I were you, I'd ED to Northwestern. They love older students, and give a full ride to students admitted ED. Plus, as you may or may not know, Biglaw has their Summer Associates work with them the summer before 3L, and this is how the vast majority of offers are given. If you go somewhere like Duke, you might have to leave your wife and child for 10 weeks to go work at a firm, as Durham doesn't exactly have a bustling legal market. If you go to Northwestern, you'll already be in a market and could summer in Chicago, and be able to live there full time.

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Re: Realistic QoL expectations for family man, T14 grad, top 1/3rd of class, minimal debt

Postby jackdanielsga » Tue Sep 04, 2018 6:39 am

Either a troll or an alien from another planet

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Re: Realistic QoL expectations for family man, T14 grad, top 1/3rd of class, minimal debt

Postby nixy » Tue Sep 04, 2018 6:50 am

jackdanielsga wrote:Either a troll or an alien from another planet

Why?

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Re: Realistic QoL expectations for family man, T14 grad, top 1/3rd of class, minimal debt

Postby nixy » Tue Sep 04, 2018 6:50 am

jackdanielsga wrote:Either a troll or an alien from another planet

Why?

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Re: Realistic QoL expectations for family man, T14 grad, top 1/3rd of class, minimal debt

Postby jackdanielsga » Tue Sep 04, 2018 7:08 am

nixy wrote:
jackdanielsga wrote:Either a troll or an alien from another planet

Why?


Everyone wants to graduate from T14 top 1/3rd of class with no debt. But at the point of "about to jump into LS apps" - I'll jump to a conclusion that there isn't even an LSAT score at this point - an assumption of actually achieving it is somewhat premature.

Overall, the story doesn't make sense - we returned to the USA, the wife just recovered from her condition, we have a 1-year-old (will be 2 when it's time to go to school) - so let's stop earning and start learning. For 3 years. Logic. I suppose birds will bring his family their health insurance for those years.

Plus I'm intrinsically suspicious of people who brandish their wife and children as their introduction.

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Re: Realistic QoL expectations for family man, T14 grad, top 1/3rd of class, minimal debt

Postby nixy » Tue Sep 04, 2018 7:46 am

jackdanielsga wrote:
nixy wrote:
jackdanielsga wrote:Either a troll or an alien from another planet

Why?


Everyone wants to graduate from T14 top 1/3rd of class with no debt. But at the point of "about to jump into LS apps" - I'll jump to a conclusion that there isn't even an LSAT score at this point - an assumption of actually achieving it is somewhat premature.

People post here prematurely all. the. time. without trolling or being an alien. In fact, the OP fits right in.

Overall, the story doesn't make sense - we returned to the USA, the wife just recovered from her condition, we have a 1-year-old (will be 2 when it's time to go to school) - so let's stop earning and start learning. For 3 years. Logic. I suppose birds will bring his family their health insurance for those years.

Or now that his wife is better, they can rely on her income?

Plus I'm intrinsically suspicious of people who brandish their wife and children as their introduction.

That sounds like a you problem.

jackdanielsga

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Re: Realistic QoL expectations for family man, T14 grad, top 1/3rd of class, minimal debt

Postby jackdanielsga » Tue Sep 04, 2018 7:56 am

nixy wrote:Or now that his wife is better, they can rely on her income?


Sure, there's plenty of room for reasonable doubt.

switchcareerdad

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Re: Realistic QoL expectations for family man, T14 grad, top 1/3rd of class, minimal debt

Postby switchcareerdad » Tue Sep 04, 2018 10:45 am

OP here. LSAT from July was 171. Totally get that my story is not normal, and that there's no guarantee T14 and finances will work out. I'm in the middle of apps now, so we'll see. I'm mainly asking because my story is weird--IF my hypo works out (and I know it might not), I'd like to be realistic about what employment might look like afterwards, and if I can find a decent job without soul-sucking hours. Figured you all would know better than I.

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Re: Realistic QoL expectations for family man, T14 grad, top 1/3rd of class, minimal debt

Postby QContinuum » Tue Sep 04, 2018 11:52 am

jackdanielsga wrote:I suppose birds will bring his family their health insurance for those years.


My school, at least, allows students to buy family coverage, and I doubt that's terribly uncommon at the other T13s.

I agree the "top 1/3rd" assumption is unwarranted. I'm also skeptical that there are "good QoL" jobs that also pay well straight out of law school. (There are possibly "good QoL" government/PI jobs straight out of law school, but they're not going to pay remotely well.) As other posters have said ITT, in-house gigs sound like the closest fit, but they require a couple years' experience first.

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Re: Realistic QoL expectations for family man, T14 grad, top 1/3rd of class, minimal debt

Postby albanach » Tue Sep 04, 2018 1:32 pm

QContinuum wrote:As other posters have said ITT, in-house gigs sound like the closest fit, but they require a couple years' experience first.


Some larger in-house departments recruit and train new graduates. They might take some searching for. Look for heavily regulated industries where there's a greater need for counsel that know the landscape and in-house departments with >20 attorneys, effectively operating as an in-house boutique.

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Re: Realistic QoL expectations for family man, T14 grad, top 1/3rd of class, minimal debt

Postby jackdanielsga » Tue Sep 04, 2018 1:54 pm

QContinuum wrote:My school, at least, allows students to buy family coverage, and I doubt that's terribly uncommon at the other T13s.


Those are like almost $1k per month though, no?

Seems like the op could be for real, with that high an lsat he can certainly do well in the admissions process.

Once thing I took out of the discussion in my thread (and reading hornbooks / e&es) is that the real law that would be useful in the lawyer line of work is really taught in the first few years past graduation. And the intensity of the biglaw firms would be the quickest way to get the experience necessary - however, the work schedule would be insane and it would be very counterintuitive to then quit after 3 years and go to some low paying job.

And if the goal is a $60-80k job - there are easier ways to get there.

So I can't help but wonder - why law?

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Re: Realistic QoL expectations for family man, T14 grad, top 1/3rd of class, minimal debt

Postby nixy » Tue Sep 04, 2018 2:01 pm

The intensity of big firms doesn’t necessarily get you the best experience though; you could spend the first three years doing fairly low level stuff for other people.

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Re: Realistic QoL expectations for family man, T14 grad, top 1/3rd of class, minimal debt

Postby switchcareerdad » Tue Sep 04, 2018 9:18 pm

QContinuum wrote:I agree the "top 1/3rd" assumption is unwarranted.


By this do you mean I shouldn't assume I'll make top 1/3rd, or something else? Plz explain if it's something else. Totally agree if you're just saying I shouldn't assume top 1/3rd--everyone will be super smart, and most will have less personal commitments than I will. I just was trying to make something up so that I could ask my question--if I end up with X, are there non-biglaw-hours jobs out there in the private sector? Thanks to all who posted ITT

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Re: Realistic QoL expectations for family man, T14 grad, top 1/3rd of class, minimal debt

Postby inthetrenches21 » Tue Sep 04, 2018 9:38 pm

OP, what's your GPA? I want to reiterate how good a choice NU would be, but also how the 1/3 thing is a premature assumption. Even if you went to a top undergrad, you'll be competing with K-JDs who have the stamina to study 16 hours a day. You don't even need top 1/3 to get Biglaw, and from the responses you've seen you probably already know that landing in-house work is probably impossible without connections. What you need to focus on is debt, i.e. getting a sholarship, as well as the problems you're going to face when you need to summer somewhere. NYC Chicago and LA are the only markets you can expect with any certainty in OCI (and LA is even a big generous).

Would you consider applying to USC? With an LSAT like yours you could probably negotiate up to a full ride there, you wouldn't need to travel far, and you'd have a leg up on the LA market. Denver will realistically only be on the table from HYS or top 5% and connections.

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Re: Realistic QoL expectations for family man, T14 grad, top 1/3rd of class, minimal debt

Postby BlackAndOrange84 » Wed Sep 05, 2018 5:27 am

One of the options you're asking about is secondary markets. I have a lot of friends who went into the top local firms in their state or regional biglaw (Amlaw 200 firms). They make less than market but well over $100k. Every single one has worked harder than they thought they would, and these are all people who could have gone to bigger markets but made a choice to stay near friends and family. To be fair, they don't work NYC biglaw hours. But when work has to get done, it has to get done, and given the smaller size of teams, there's no place to hide and you're still basically on call all the time. So, even aside from the difficulty of getting jobs like these—and they are very hard to get, particularly if you don't have very solid ties to an area—don't think that "midlaw" (or rather the high-end of state-specific or regional law firms in markets that biglaw has largely left alone) or biglaw satellite offices offer the work-life balance you're looking for.

One other thing that was mentioned was in-house gigs right out of school. I have a buddy who did this and is very happy with the somewhat less money and less hours. It was what he was shooting for from day one, and he managed to land a spot in the summer program of a Fortune 500 and is now doing privacy and cybersecurity work. So, that's a serious option, though I have no idea how many such spots there are or how competitive they are. Anecdotally, I've also heard that gigs like this can be somewhat limiting in the long term because you won't have the biglaw pedigree or "training."

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Re: Realistic QoL expectations for family man, T14 grad, top 1/3rd of class, minimal debt

Postby Npret » Wed Sep 05, 2018 5:37 am

You really have to assume median wherever you go, and you could end up below that. You’re saying “I know this is an assumption, just go with it” but it’s not necessarily realistic to make those assumptions. You definitely can’t assume a job in a smaller market, large cities are the usual outcomes because that’s where the jobs are located as another poster said.

Before going to law school, especially with a large family, you should consider if you can live with the worst case scenario, not assume the best.

How much do you expect to make and how hard do you want to work after you graduate?

I wouldn’t be so dismissive of government work it maybe the best for hours if not salary.

If you are only going to law school for the money, I would rethink the entire plan. Is there something else you can do with your education and experience?

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Re: Realistic QoL expectations for family man, T14 grad, top 1/3rd of class, minimal debt

Postby Npret » Wed Sep 05, 2018 8:05 am

Ok I saw you want to work 50 hours a week doing transactional work and you expect to make low 6 figures. Isn’t that most lawyers dream job?

I’m not going to say it is 100% impossible but a job like that will be competitive and most likely will want a 1-2 years of biglaw experience.

You should know that transactional practice has the most unpredictable and deadline driven hours. If you want a career with regular hours, transactional may not be the way to go.

You sound like you are going into this very naively - even more than the students that assume they will get biglaw, at least here are a lot of those jobs and they hire on a regular schedule- your assumptions of top third and getting a very competitive job in a smaller market are too much pie in the sky in my opinion.

My prediction is that if you go to T14 law school, do well and want transactional, you have a good chance to end up in biglaw. The money is too much to resist and the jobs are the most predictable to get. How long you stay will be up to you. I’m not saying assume biglaw, Just consider it as a likely scenario.

My personal view is that even assuming biglaw is a risk, hiring is more predictable, but class sizes and hiring change year to year. After substantial raises this year, I think firms may continue to trim their summer class.
I’m at odds with most of this forum though. A lot of students think that just because they get into the T6 school that they will have a biglaw job. I’m too cautious for that assumption.

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Re: Realistic QoL expectations for family man, T14 grad, top 1/3rd of class, minimal debt

Postby Npret » Wed Sep 05, 2018 8:13 am

switchcareerdad wrote:
QContinuum wrote:I agree the "top 1/3rd" assumption is unwarranted.


By this do you mean I shouldn't assume I'll make top 1/3rd, or something else? Plz explain if it's something else. Totally agree if you're just saying I shouldn't assume top 1/3rd--everyone will be super smart, and most will have less personal commitments than I will. I just was trying to make something up so that I could ask my question--if I end up with X, are there non-biglaw-hours jobs out there in the private sector? Thanks to all who posted ITT


The basic rule is to assume median as your best possible and most likely outcome. The reason is that law school is graded on a strict, set curve. The number of As that will be awarded are set before the class even begins. The exam grading is subjective as well. Oh, and in most classes there is one exam at the end.
Hard work won’t guarantee you a good grade. It’s not like undergrad where everyone can get an A if they get 90 or above.

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Re: Realistic QoL expectations for family man, T14 grad, top 1/3rd of class, minimal debt

Postby totesTheGoat » Wed Sep 05, 2018 12:24 pm

I'm gonna try not to repeat other responses too much, but much of their advice is standard fare for 0Ls asking whether law school is a good idea.

Totes' rules for law school admissions:
1) NEVER pay sticker for law school - Sounds like you're on track
2) Go to the best school that gives you good money - You're not quite to this part of the decision process yet
3) Retake until your LSAT gets you a desirable financial and employment outcome - 171 is well within this territory
4) Hope for top of class, assume you'll be median, make sure bottom of class outcome is acceptable - THIS IS THE BIG ONE
5) Never go to law school from a point of desperation - Doesn't sound like this applies to you based on your post.

The question you asked was about QoL, and I'll address that in a minute, but first let me talk about the people I got to know who were in similar life situations while going through law school. There were a handful that were just starting families during law school, and that was a grind, but most of the people with older kids didn't make it to graduation. They saw the writing on the wall after 1L or 2L and cut their losses before they graduated into $60k jobs with massive debt. Obviously, your situation is different given that you'll be able to pay cash for some portion of your school, but the issue is that you have a whole bunch of distractions that a 23 year old doesn't. For you to put in the same amount of effort to your studies as the 23 year old, you're going to be running yourself ragged or nearly completely disappearing from your family's life for 3 years. Most of the folks with families simply couldn't keep up and were at or below median after their first year. You're already in a better spot than some of them, given your LSAT, so don't misunderstand what I'm saying. You can quite possibly be successful in law school, but you're going to have to work harder than your classmates simply due to your family responsibilities. You can't just roll out of bed at 10:30 to go to your first class like they can.

Regarding QoL, there are some smaller law firms that have reasonable (50+ hr/week) work hours, but you'll always be on call, and you'll be making about $60k a year. The biglaw firms will pay $190k, but they're very selective, known to sometimes have a bit of age bias, and they work you hard. 70-100 hour weeks, on call 24/7, fire drills left and right, constant competition with your peers. In house is an option, but you usually have to put in your time in a biglaw firm (3-5 years minimum). It's also not an easy job. The hours aren't crazy like the big firms (45-55 hrs/week most weeks), and you're not constantly on call, but there is still a bunch of pressure to perform, fire drills happen regularly, and you don't get paid as well as the biglaw firms.

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Re: Realistic QoL expectations for family man, T14 grad, top 1/3rd of class, minimal debt

Postby abl » Wed Sep 05, 2018 4:35 pm

There are plenty of jobs available to a median T14 graduate that pay $80k-$130k and require ~50 hour work weeks. They just aren't generally recruiting on campus and will often value things like connections and fit as much as they value pedigree. If you're willing to hustle, network, and think outside the box, and especially if you have a strong connection to a secondary market, landing one of these positions is absolutely a feasible goal for someone in your shoes.

Most T14 grads go to biglaw because it's (a) easy; (b) prestigious; and (c) very, very lucrative (biglaw is also an excellent jumping off point to many other more rewarding jobs). Many of the jobs that will better fit what you're looking for will be, on paper, less selective than biglaw. But they will require you to swim against the current at your school--which is harder to do than you'd think. Law school is an overwhelming experience, and there are so many things that you'll need to follow others' lead on in order to be successful that it's a real challenge to then step aside and do your own thing when it comes to being hired. T14 students aren't dumb and they aren't unmotivated. Many of them come into law school with a preference for lower pay and lower work expectations. Yet few of these students will end up outside of biglaw. There's a reason for that.

This is all to say that you absolutely can buck the trend, but that it will require you to be pretty focused from day 1 on what matters to you. Spend most of your first semester figuring out what sorts of jobs you're interested in. Spend your second semester trying to get a summer position at one of them (and then use that summer to build connections in the specific office and learning the ropes of this specific subset of the legal industry). If you still are excited about this area of the law/practice, build your law school transcript around it -- with courses and externships -- and use your second summer likewise. By the end of your first summer, you should have a pretty clear idea of what it takes to get hired in this area. By the end of your second summer, you should have an offer or, at least, a very clear set of specific next steps that will lead to an offer (either at your summer office or elsewhere). You may have to apply for jobs in your 3L year, and you may not know where you're working until it comes close to graduation -- which can be an incredibly stressful experience (but only because so many of your friends will have had offers from their summer firms for $190k positions for months at this point, and not because there's anything inherently stressful about applying for jobs 4 months in advance of your start date). But my bet is that of T14 median students who follow this path, 19/20 will have a job lined up by around graduation (with the exceptions often having more to do with personality conflicts than with the inherent difficulty of this path).



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