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Careers Number Crunching: Money v. Happiness

The conventional wisdom is that Biglaw associates make piles of money but are miserable, while their smaller-firm counterparts earn much less but enjoy a better quality of life. At the blog Empirical Legal Studies, Indiana University School of Law professor William D. Henderson stood that conventional wisdom against available data from NALP, the ABA's Young Lawyers Division and other sources, and, guess what -- the conventional wisdom is pretty much right. The data show that over the eight-year spread of the typical associate track, Biglaw associates will earn $631,000 more in salaries than associates at firms of two to 25 lawyers and $524,000 more than those at firms of 51 to 100 lawyers -- and that does not include bonuses. But nearly half those Biglaw associates will spend much of those eight years working at least 60 hours a week, while roughly 40 percent of those in firms of one to four lawyers work 40 or fewer hours a week. Henderson sums it up this way:

"[T]he bottom-line is this: 60 hours is a long workweek. For many people, eight years of this pace may not be worth the $631,000 (2-25 lawyer shop) or $524,000 (50-100 lawyer firm) pay differential. After all, these years are the prime of many lawyers' lives.  Solving this work-life balance issue is the holy grail for this up-and-coming generation of young lawyers. On the one hand, this effort seems quixotic. On the other hand, as Wayne Gretzky used to say, you miss 100% of the shots you never take. On one level, we can all admire the temerity of youth."

But Henderson is quick to suggest that not all large firms are necessarily harsh places to work. As it turns out, the more elite the firm, the longer the working hours and the less desirable the working conditions. Ironically, he adds, it is the students who leave law school with the broadest array of options who choose these harshest firms, opting for prestige and money over quality of life.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on October 10, 2007 at 03:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)


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