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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov. 13, 2007
    Location
    Burbank, California
    Posts
    721

    Default question for my fellow attorneys...or any other professional...

    I took a year off the practice of law to teach high school. LOVED it!

    Before I could make a career out of it, a small firm (2 attorneys) asked me to join them, because they needed/wanted a solid litigator, as their real estate practice was edging from transactional into more litigation.

    So I joined. The salary is slightly (and I mean only slightly) better than what I would be making as a teacher, and the hours are, in a word, nuts. 10+ hour days, with some all-nighters to get things filed in time.

    Now, the litigation practice is relatively new for them, and I am basically re-doing all of their systems and procedures to make it work. I am interviewing interns/recent law grads to help me, and, as business increases (which I am pretty sure it will), my salary will increase with it.

    It is kind of a get in at the ground level and hope things smooth out before you die type of thing.

    I love the work. I love my boss/managing partner. It is just a LOT of hours with little support. I feel very over loaded, and I am the work 'till you drop type so this could get scary.

    So...thoughts? Have you ever had a job that you just had to hang on and hope paid off in the long run? Again, the work that we do is great, the people are great, I'm just feeling like there aren't enough hours in the day and I might work myself into the hospital. Also, it is litigation so it isn't like I can just stop if I happen to have already pulled 3 fifteen hour days and client calls in with an emergency.

    Thank you so much COTHers for listening!
    "Look, I'm trying not to test the durability of the arena with my face!" (Because only GM can do that.)



  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb. 5, 2006
    Location
    Kansas
    Posts
    1,404

    Default

    Attorney here who chose to go the corporate in-house route instead, precisely because of the situation you describe. The hours - and the stress - are absolutely typical for the newest attorney(s) in a firm.

    However, what you are describing sounds like a pretty good deal. Remember that a new associate in a really big firm can look forward to similar slave labor for 5 - 7 years with no promises at the end. You describe a situation where you will have new attorneys/clerks working under you in the near future, and that you either already are or will shortly be a partner in the firm. If the situation does not pan out and the business does not expand as anticipated you should also know that within 1-2 years. So long as you enjoy the work itself, I'd say to stay with it. You point out that if the business does expand your salary and your ability to set your own schedule (i.e. to accomodate your riding interests) should expand accordingly. If not, you can re-explore other options including teaching.
    Incredible Invisible



  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov. 13, 2007
    Location
    Burbank, California
    Posts
    721

    Default

    Thank you Quin! Not a partner, yet, but that would be a possibility probably within 12 months, 2 years at the outside, so long as the firm continues to do well.

    So good to have insight from others!

    Keep it coming
    "Look, I'm trying not to test the durability of the arena with my face!" (Because only GM can do that.)



  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun. 23, 2004
    Location
    Loudoun County, VA
    Posts
    10,425

    Default

    Do you have other options? As a practical matter, unless there are other viable options that appeal, you don't really have anything for comparison.

    Regarding the biglaw comment, I was a litigator with a really big firm for a number of years but I personally loved it; it paid well, and there were great prospects at that firm because it is very successful. And they had virtually limitless resources and support staff to make things run smoothly.

    I am at a busy boutique now and love that also.

    From your description it sounds like you are spending a lot of time on non-billable work. It probably would make a lot more sense to have a junior person to delegate most of those tasks to in order to free you up to actually practice law. And if you are the only litigator, it sounds like you really need to be focused on that as well as client development.
    Roseknoll Sporthorses
    www.roseknoll.net



  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct. 22, 2003
    Posts
    1,830

    Default

    Not a lawyer. Own a software startup.

    Work 6 days a week, 15+ hours a day and I pretty much describe it as crisis to crisis. I enjoy what I do, we have a fabulous team, and the potential rewards are a pretty little carrot. The stress is ah... high. A few months ago I was really at a point where I thought I couldn't do it anymore. I'm better now.

    At this point I've come to the conclusion I've put too much into it to walk away.
    "The nice thing about memories is the good ones are stronger and linger longer than the bad and we sure have some incredibly good memories." - EverythingButWings



  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr. 28, 2008
    Posts
    7,398

    Default

    Well, having been in a trial-focused litigation practice for several years all I can say is that it becomes an art form to learn how to take time off when you can, and to work your a## off when you have to. You also need to make sure that your corporate partners understand that when you've had a month where you bill 400 hours, then the next month it's OK that you bill 90. You have to take the time if you are going to make it long-term. Otherwise you will burn out.

    I really enjoyed litigation and found the lifestyle to be surprisingly workable for riding. I am now in-house, though, as I have a family -- big-firm trial work and kids don't mix. It is a much easier lifestyle, I must admit!



  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar. 1, 2003
    Location
    Happily in Canada
    Posts
    4,917

    Default

    I am a 1st year associate at a smaller firm, so I have fairly reasonable hours, but I still loathe the expectation that lawyers, especially juniors, must work like slaves. If I wanted that, I would just be a full-time working student and at least I would stay slim and keep my riding skills up while I'm at it!

    I am currently exploring all ways of having normal (or better than normal) hours and still having time to ride, show etc. My bosses are past retirement age and they "can't" retire yet... why? It's ridiculous! Not to mention I feel they are grooming me to buy into their partnership - fat chance, it will take long enough to pay my student loans that surely they'll be retired by then!

    All those studies showing that our society is much more efficient and productive than 30 or 40 years ago, yet we are working even more hours every week, just show what a rat race we are in.

    This book is not THE answer but an interesting jumping-off point.
    Blugal

    You never know what kind of obsessive compulsive crazy person you are until another person imitates your behaviour at a three-day. --Gry2Yng



  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov. 13, 2007
    Location
    Burbank, California
    Posts
    721

    Default

    Really great comments, keep them coming!

    Just to add a little more - no billable hours, we take our cases on a hybrid flat-fee and per-appearance fee basis.

    So...becoming super efficient is going to be key. I am getting much quicker with the pleadings, after working crazy hours creating the templates.

    As far as the partners above me - it is just the owner/managing partner and me. I'm becoming basically his right arm, so that is both a good and bad thing. I'm eventually going to be indispensable, but then again I'm the one that is constantly averting the crisis.

    Right now it feels like triage! Hopefully once we are somewhat caught up I can stop just hopping from crisis to crisis and get a reasonable flow going.
    "Look, I'm trying not to test the durability of the arena with my face!" (Because only GM can do that.)



  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul. 28, 2006
    Posts
    345

    Default

    Seriously, the money is in corporate, commercial and IT law. I switched in my junior years from matrimonial to corporate commercial.

    Real estate pays the monthly bills. Our 4 lawyer firm does about 60-70 residential deals a month, and that pays the hydro/salaries. I don't see a lot of money in litigation (we have a litigation department, and it just covers itself. Sure, it has some big payouts, but as you said, many months the fees are less than 5 grand).

    Corporate commercial can be dry, but on major share purchases/reorganizations it does get interesting. I think you have to have the mind for it...

    I'd build up a year or two in experience with this firm, but frankly I'd be branching out as well and trying to pick up some corporate clients, who need litigation now, but with the long term project of picking up their corporate work.



  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul. 21, 2006
    Location
    South Carolina
    Posts
    5,016

    Default

    Sorry, but I don't understand what it is you're doing.

    You're not billing hours, and you're not working on contingency. Flat-fee? What kind of cases are you litigating?

    Where I am, real estate attorneys do a little better than the guy sitting on the corner with a tin cup. But not much better. So I absolutely agree that they need you. I'm just having trouble seeing how you need them.

    I once worked at a two-man firm where I had no control, no support, and neither of the partners knew bee from bullfoot about what I was trying to accomplish. The firm was always in crisis mode. I will never.ever.put myself in that situation again.

    But your situation may be entirely different from the one I experienced. Certainly you and I are very different - I taught high school for a year and a half and ran screaming for law school because I was going to need a lawyer if I didn't become one.



  11. #11
    Join Date
    Nov. 13, 2007
    Location
    Burbank, California
    Posts
    721

    Default

    pAin't_Misbehavin', I think you may have hit the nail on the head.

    While I'm pretty experienced for my years in legal work, I still tend to let people take advantage.

    Here I was convincing myself that the triage would slow down, and at 5:30 yesterday (Friday), while I am 500 miles away from work, I get a call that there is a client with a sale date next week, and could I please write the Complaint and Ex Parte Application, file the Complaint Monday through our service, and appear on the Ex Parte Tuesday?

    Office is in Southern California. I had an appearance in Nor-Cal on Wed., which is fine because it was on the way to my family's place for the holiday. I also have a Nor-Cal appearance Monday, fine since it is on my way home.

    This new one is also in Nor-Cal, so now I have to stay up here an extra day!!!!!!!!

    So there were other questions -

    These are flat fee files, clients that pay a flat fee up front ($4500-ish) and get help with their real estate issues, whether that is negotiating with the bank for a lower payment or filing a claim if they need it.

    If we end up filing a claim, they bear their own costs and pay a per-appearance fee every time we appear in court. I appear in court. Whatever.

    I've been in panic mode since 5:30 yesterday. I'm bi-polar (excuse the phrase, but it FITS) about this job as I ever have been. When it is good, I feel ok about the lower salary and the potential it might have.

    When stuff like this happens, I'm a mess and want to quit as soon as I get back.

    ACK!!
    "Look, I'm trying not to test the durability of the arena with my face!" (Because only GM can do that.)



  12. #12
    Join Date
    Apr. 16, 2002
    Location
    ontario, canada
    Posts
    2,426

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by piftisha View Post


    I love the work. I love my boss/managing partner. It is just a LOT of hours with little support. I feel very over loaded, and I am the work 'till you drop type so this could get scary.

    So...thoughts? Have you ever had a job that you just had to hang on and hope paid off in the long run? Again, the work that we do is great, the people are great, I'm just feeling like there aren't enough hours in the day and I might work myself into the hospital. Also, it is litigation so it isn't like I can just stop if I happen to have already pulled 3 fifteen hour days and client calls in with an emergency.

    Thank you so much COTHers for listening!
    That oft repeated phrase that making partner is like winning a pie-eating contest in which the prize for winning is more pie is really true. So, I *think* the key is really really liking pie. It sounds like you do and that the issues - hours and pay are things you can work on. Getting another body to take on some of the hours will help immensely, and if that level of work is maintained, you can probably negotiate the salary to something you are happy with. But the key here, to me, is that you still like what you do and you like the people that you do it with. That sounds worth trying to make it work.

    On the flip side, I'm an '08 grad, but I have friends/classmates who have already figured out that they do not like practicing in their current firms but are sticking with it for the money. Its not a sacrifice I would be willing to make unless I absolutely had to. My job isn't perfect, but I do enjoy the work and the environment. I wish I had a few more hours in the day, and a few more dollars in the bank (I picked a smaller city with smaller salaries over a larger city with much larger salaries but higher billable targets), but as long as I like what I do, I'm ok with the compromise.

    That said, the practice of law is a bit sick! And sometimes I watch my friends in business and wonder about the lunacy. They are building things that will hopefully gain momentum and maybe run themselves someday. Law is so dependent on the continued input.



  13. #13
    Join Date
    Nov. 13, 2007
    Location
    Burbank, California
    Posts
    721

    Default

    Well, it finally blew up in my face!

    I worked about 320 hours in November, including Thanksgiving day, Friday and Saturday after that. Put in LOTS of Saturdays, trying to hold the strings of this guy's practice together.

    Then my checks started bouncing.

    He offered to give me a week's paid vacation (which really should have been one of my benefits ANYWAY) as my "Xmas Bonus." Some bonus! Then I proceeded to work almost another 300 hours in December, going all over the state for court appearances that I told him were losers and borderline without merit.

    Finally, last Sunday, my vacation comes. After 2 weeks of setting up appointments with him to brief him on my files, all of which he didn't show up to or make time for, I had to leave. He owed me about $1500 in reimbursements, and he would only give me $500 - and that bounced, so I had to go cash it at HIS bank. That took two days.

    Then last night was the very end. We lost a motion a week ago, and he had brought up the possibility of appealing it. I said that the standard was very high, almost impossible to show, and would be a huge waste of client money when they should just be trying to catch up on their mortgage anyway.

    He didn't even call me - he just noticed a hearing for Monday, the day I get back, and I found out from opposing counsel!! Then I called the office to see what the hell they had done, and they had actually set the hearing to appeal this ruling IN FRONT OF THE JUDGE THAT MADE THE RULING! How embarrassing. Then "the boss" wouldn't even take my call, and I got a txt message from the paralegal "he says you're doing it."

    Did I mention he leaves 1/2 for a vacation on some remote island out of the country? (still while bouncing paychecks)

    When, exactly, between 9pm last night and 8am Monday morning would I have time to order the transcript (courts are closed!), read that, and draft and assemble what would probably be 100+ pages. When I am on pre-approved vacation, 3000 miles away?

    After lots of tears and discussion with my family, I up and quit. There are tons of bar complaints against this guy, and it seems like it is a flaming ship and I just had to get off before I went down with it.

    Good note? I was already looking for a new job and have some excellent prospects. Seems I'm pretty marketable now!

    Whoooo sorry that was a long vent. Bottom line is I really need to stop trusting people!
    "Look, I'm trying not to test the durability of the arena with my face!" (Because only GM can do that.)



  14. #14
    Join Date
    Apr. 28, 2008
    Posts
    7,398

    Default

    Good for you, he sounds like a lunatic. After following your thread develop at Thanksgiving, I was feeling quite sorry for you! I hope you find something more manageable. Don't forget to withdraw your appearances from all your cases ASAP when the courts open -- make sure he can't screw up and get your name smeared in some bar misfeasance!



  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jul. 21, 2006
    Location
    South Carolina
    Posts
    5,016

    Default

    I'm sorry. I wound up working for a lunatic my first job out of law school. I know it sucks.

    But, hell - in my book, every other lawyer I ever worked for is a little bit looney. I guess that's because we lawyers are convinced we're always right, and the other lawyer's out in left field, no?

    This is why I started my own practice two and a half years ago. Not great timing - but then again, I can't get laid off.

    Anyway, you will get past this. But I know it sucks right now. Best of luck.



  16. #16
    Join Date
    Jan. 26, 2006
    Location
    Fort Worth, Texas
    Posts
    4,506

    Default

    Drink a glass of soapy water before entering the courtroom, after throwing-up all over the desk ask for a continuance ….
    Last edited by clanter; Jan. 2, 2011 at 12:18 AM.



  17. #17
    Join Date
    Nov. 13, 2007
    Location
    Burbank, California
    Posts
    721

    Default

    Clanter, I love you

    Thank you everyone else for your supportive comments. I am back on the job hunt!

    In really good news, Max's sore foot problem has resolved itself (rest + the yearly coffin injections did it again!) so we are good in that department for awhile, at least, and my husband's business is super busy so the time off work is ok.
    "Look, I'm trying not to test the durability of the arena with my face!" (Because only GM can do that.)



  18. #18
    Join Date
    Jun. 14, 2007
    Location
    Texas
    Posts
    701

    Default

    I used to be an associate at a 100+ law firm working 60+ hours a week and made a ridiculous amount of money for a young, single girl fresh out of law school. I hated every minute of practicing law. The hierarchical bullshit, the politics, the hours, the unreasonableness, the double standards, the time sheets broken down in 5 min billable increments - all of it.

    I went back to school to get my PhD, started teaching and I LOVE LOVE LOVE it! Yeah, I won't make as much money as I did in private practice, but I get to take my dogs to the park every morning, ride my horse every day and work when I want to work. Sure, the Academy has a lot of the same political bullshit issues that law firms have (academics won't often admit it but they act very much like lawyers with much less power and a lot more bravado), but at the end of the day I still get to be the boss of me and pursue my own interests.
    Most friendships in the horse world are just an opinion away from doom.



  19. #19
    Join Date
    Mar. 19, 2010
    Posts
    416

    Default

    I loved law school but LOATHED the practice of law in a law firm. I now have a small practice (trademark and equine) and I work full time for Lexis, which absolutely LOVE. I sure won't pay off my school loans anytime soon, but my sanity is worth too much.
    Most people don't need a $35,000 horse. They need a $1,000 horse and $34,000 in lessons.

    "I don't have to be fair… . I'm an American With a Strong, Fact-Free Opinion." (stolen off Facebook)



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