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I'm at a crossroads in my career and I'm not sure what to do.

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I'm at a crossroads in my career and I'm not sure what to do.

Old 02-23-05, 02:28 PM
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I'm at a crossroads in my career and I'm not sure what to do.

Fellow Otters,

Posting on this board over the last several years has been one of the great parts of my day. While I usually limit my posts to lighter stuff, I'm at a place in my life right now where I could use a little direction.

I've been an attorney with a small (8 man) firm now for two and a half years. I started there when I got out of law school and I figured I be there for a long time. When I started, I was told I could probably be a partner in about five years. Now, they tell me that they can't promise when that will happen, and it's largely going to depend on how I help build the business up over time. As it stands, I make about $48,000 per year plus a third of whatever revenue i bring in. I'm just starting to get my own client base going and it should continue growing over time. If it worked out and I became a partner, I'd make more than at a big firm and work less to boot.

About a month ago, a friend of mine with a big local firm came to me about possibly coming to his firm as an associate. I'd probably come in around $90,000, but I'd have to bill around 1900 hours per year and could expect to work Saturdays and late nights fairly often. I know it's a huge financial gain and I don't want to let my family down, but my gut tells me I might not like it. I met with several members of the big firm today and got a strange vibe. I'm terrified of making the wrong choice.

Any thoughts?

P.S. This is a hell of a way to spend my 32nd birthday.
Old 02-23-05, 02:30 PM
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What's more important to you - spending time with your family, or making lots of money?
Old 02-23-05, 02:31 PM
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Take the lump sum.
Old 02-23-05, 02:32 PM
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Attorney + Memphis + big law firm + strange vibe? Wasn't there a John Grisham book about you?
Old 02-23-05, 02:32 PM
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Wow i just did the math. If you divide 1900/365 that means you work on average 5 hours a day without any days off! Thats a lot of money but it all comes down to what makes you happy. Are you getting by with how much you earn?
Old 02-23-05, 02:33 PM
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Originally Posted by neo247
Wow i just did the math. If you divide 1900/365 that means you work on average 5 hours a day without any days off! Thats a lot of money but it all comes down to what makes you happy. Are you getting by with how much you earn?

Plus that is assuming you are billing every single second you are at work, which is not realistic.
Old 02-23-05, 02:37 PM
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Or 1900/50 weeks, 38 hours a week. I'd like to get paid 90k for working 38 hours a week! [I'm assuming I'm missing something; either that, or all the lawyer jokes are true....]
Anyway, money's not everything, but it does help a lot--but getting paid a lot to do a job you hate [or work in a place you hate, or aren't happy, etc] isn't worth it. You'll be less productive, and those feelings will roll over to affect your family.
Sometimes it's better to be a big fish in a small pond, than a small fish in a big pond.
Old 02-23-05, 02:43 PM
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there is no right or wrong thing to do.

you can take the money now, hope you do well, and retire early so you can spend time with your family.

or

take little money now. spend time with your family now. and then work until your 65.

are you a risk taker or do you like to play it safe?
Old 02-23-05, 02:44 PM
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Originally Posted by dtcarson
Or 1900/50 weeks, 38 hours a week.
I also did this math.

You have to ask yourself, will you and your family be happy in this new environment? You may be making $15-25k more, but will the late nights and weekday workdays be worth it? Do you need the money right now? Would you have to move?
Old 02-23-05, 02:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Shazam
What's more important to you - spending time with your family, or making lots of money?
I couldn't have said it better myself. If you have kids, no amount of money is going to buy their childhoods back. Remember "Cats in the Cradle"?

Anyway, good luck with your decision.
Old 02-23-05, 02:54 PM
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I wouldn't have to move. Keep in mind that it takes people about 8-10 hours a day in the office to bill 7. Billing is actual time on task for a particular client.
Old 02-23-05, 02:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Red Dog
Attorney + Memphis + big law firm + strange vibe? Wasn't there a John Grisham book about you?
It's not "Bendini, Lambert and Locke" but it is within walking distance of the movie location.
Old 02-23-05, 03:03 PM
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I had a similar situation...though without a family.

In my case I tried to work the long hours for the big pay off (twice)...guess what I found? I was miserable. I worked too much, and saw my g/f and friends less and less. I figured since I was young that it was worth the sacrafice....it wasn't.

I can understand the lure of a large firm, but you really are going to change your 'daily life'. How important are Saturdays to you? If I was raising a family...i would have a hard time skipping my kids events, and not being around them as much as possible. Money is great, but I'm not sure it is worth the trade off of not seeing your family as much, in addition to the added time at work.

Billing more at work (as you know) will not be a 1:1 increase. You need to figure out what % of your time at the office will be billable, and go from there. If you assume that you can bill out 75% of your time at the office (based on the 38/hr per week @ 50 wks/yr), you'd be working 50 hours a week.

I'd stick it out at your current firm.

Also...if you want to entertain the offer, maybe you can 'encourage' your current firm to move you along, or at least give you something more than what you have. Just be straight with them and tell them you got an offer from Big Firm, and see what they say. (this is touchy, but if done right...you might suprise yourself with what they give you)

-pedgogue
Old 02-23-05, 03:03 PM
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Turd - Go with your gut.....


PS - Happy 32nd birthday.
Old 02-23-05, 03:10 PM
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I could make a lot more money if I lived in a bigger area. I could make a lot more money doing things in other businesses, and have had offers to do so. I enjoy my lifestyle, and I make enough to do most anything I want. I would have to guess that you are in the same boat. Build to where you are making closer to $75-90k with where you are (you may be there already), and get yourself in a position of "make me partner, or I need to find a better situation."
Old 02-23-05, 03:13 PM
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Originally Posted by kvrdave
I could make a lot more money if I lived in a bigger area. I could make a lot more money doing things in other businesses, and have had offers to do so. I enjoy my lifestyle, and I make enough to do most anything I want. I would have to guess that you are in the same boat. Build to where you are making closer to $75-90k with where you are (you may be there already), and get yourself in a position of "make me partner, or I need to find a better situation."


Job satisfaction is worth a lot. If you already had reservations and got a funny vibe, skip it. I'm a big believer in funny vibes.
Old 02-23-05, 03:14 PM
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Originally Posted by pedagogue
I'd stick it out at your current firm.

Also...if you want to entertain the offer, maybe you can 'encourage' your current firm to move you along, or at least give you something more than what you have. Just be straight with them and tell them you got an offer from Big Firm, and see what they say. (this is touchy, but if done right...you might suprise yourself with what they give you)

-pedgogue
Very good advice. Consider seeing if there is any potential to use this to negotiate to friendlier terms with your current office.
Old 02-23-05, 03:19 PM
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My best friend's professional experience is similar to yours. He is 15 years older than you, has been a partner for about 15 years, and after years of hard work, he is enjoying the financial rewards. By the same token, now that he has achieved the income stream (half million annually), he rues working 6-day weeks and wonders about early retirement. It's another real life example of "the grass is always greener".

Cut to the chase: if you are happy where you are, you will probably build the business and earn the partnership there. I agree with Dave that you will need to establish the timetable/requirements for partner in order to make a decision.
Old 02-23-05, 03:25 PM
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Originally Posted by pedagogue
I had a similar situation...though without a family.

In my case I tried to work the long hours for the big pay off (twice)...guess what I found? I was miserable. I worked too much, and saw my g/f and friends less and less. I figured since I was young that it was worth the sacrafice....it wasn't.

I can understand the lure of a large firm, but you really are going to change your 'daily life'. How important are Saturdays to you? If I was raising a family...i would have a hard time skipping my kids events, and not being around them as much as possible. Money is great, but I'm not sure it is worth the trade off of not seeing your family as much, in addition to the added time at work.

Billing more at work (as you know) will not be a 1:1 increase. You need to figure out what % of your time at the office will be billable, and go from there. If you assume that you can bill out 75% of your time at the office (based on the 38/hr per week @ 50 wks/yr), you'd be working 50 hours a week.

I'd stick it out at your current firm.

Also...if you want to entertain the offer, maybe you can 'encourage' your current firm to move you along, or at least give you something more than what you have. Just be straight with them and tell them you got an offer from Big Firm, and see what they say. (this is touchy, but if done right...you might suprise yourself with what they give you)

-pedgogue
ped makes some good points. The old saying that "time is money" works both ways. Your free time is also money in a way, at least that's the way I think about it. When I have time to do the things I enjoy, it fullfills me as much or more than the salary I make.

One note of caution. If you're going to try to use this offer as leverage at the current firm, only do so with the understanding that they may tell you to pack your bags and take the offer. Just be prepared to have to take the 90 grand offer if necessary. If you're dead set against it, then I wouldn't play that game. But then again, I play it safe. I'm boring.
Old 02-23-05, 03:38 PM
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Originally Posted by dtcarson
Or 1900/50 weeks, 38 hours a week. I'd like to get paid 90k for working 38 hours a week!
Depending on your practice, it can take you anywhere from 40-60+ hours in the office to bill 38 hours in a week. Internal meetings, lunches, internet browsing ,and seminars, among other daily rituals, do not count in this. 38 hours means 38 hours of work that is billed (or billable-depending on the firm) to a client.

Also, I assume Turd means 1900 is the MINIMUM required hours. That is what gets by.

In my opinion, any lawyer billing 1900 hours a year earns that 90k. (and works a LOT more than 38 hours a week for 50 weeks).

Turd- Having worked in BIGlaw, I would recommend not going, especially if you have a funny feeling about it. They can be great places to work and grow, but they can become so all-consuming that your family really suffers. Also, some BIGlaw firms are gaining reputations for using associates for 6 or seven years then spitting them out when they are up for partner.

Have you considered looking at in-house positions? I know you were not actively looking, but if you are not happy with your current firm, an in-house position can (doesn't always) be a great opportunity.

Good Luck.

Last edited by lysander; 02-23-05 at 03:42 PM.
Old 02-23-05, 04:41 PM
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My mom is the administrator of a large law firm. When I was in college, I told her I that I was thinking about becoming an attorney. She told me that I had better be prepared to work six-day weeks for the rest of my career if I worked at a medium-to-large firm. I decided I like my free time more.
Old 02-23-05, 04:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Big Quasimodo
now that he has achieved the income stream (half million annually), he rues working 6-day weeks and wonders about early retirement.
Shit... early retirement would be after 5 years for me at that salary !! But of course people who want to live extravagently ........

And to the OP... as the saying goes "You won't be on your death bed wishing you'd spent more time at the office." Do what's the best balance for you and your family.

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