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Fred's musings seem partiularly apropos
Old 04-17-2006, 08:30 AM   #1
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Fred's musings seem partiularly apropos

http://www.fredoneverything.net/AjijicTrail.shtml

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"Often, while supervising dry hills in the distance—they explode into green when the rains come—I wonder why people live as they do. In Washington the young go to law school, itself inexplicable, and then work twelve-hour days for many years so as to become partners at the noted firm of Linger, Loiter, and Dawdle. This seems to me a fate greatly to be avoided. They must have a reason for doing it. I just don’t know what it is. At the ends of their lives I suppose they can reflect that they saved Lockheed-Martin a great deal in taxes, and won an important suit over a municipal parking lot."

When I read stuff like this and TiogaRV's blog, I really have to wonder why I have chosen the life I did. I guess I did so because it was "expected", baked into society's expectations of me and I absorbed and internalized these expectations, especially through the educatory process. It was unthinkable to go through an elite high school and not continue on through a trajectory of socially approved "success".

Its all a moot point now, I guess. I made the choices I made and I have far too much invested in my current life to start over. Plus kids pretty much put paid to any flighs of fancy one might have, at least until I have sufficient capital to carry us regardless.
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Re: Fred's musings seem partiularly apropos
Old 04-17-2006, 08:55 AM   #2
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Re: Fred's musings seem partiularly apropos

I went to law school with very specific plans to work for legal aid. I did work for them part time while in school. I found that I took it all too personally. I couldn't sleep at night because I would get all torn up inside about peoples situations. And legal aid was becoming more and more restricted by law as to what it could do to help people. For example, what we really needed to do was lobby on various issues, but we were prohibited from doing so.

After law school I was offered a job at legal aid. Instead, I worked for the bankruptcy court for a while trying to decide what to do. When that clerkship was over, I was again offered a legal aid job. Instead I went for the money and started at a private firm.

I liked legal education and enjoyed law school. But I was never totally comfortable with my choice to go into private practice. The upside is that I earned enough so we could become FI.

If I wanted to continue to work, I think I would like to be a public policy advocate (lobbyist ). Or a coach for struggling lawyers.

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Re: Fred's musings seem partiularly apropos
Old 04-17-2006, 09:38 AM   #3
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Re: Fred's musings seem partiularly apropos

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Originally Posted by brewer12345
Its all a moot point now, I guess. I made the choices I made and I have far too much invested in my current life to start over. Plus kids pretty much put paid to any flighs of fancy one might have, at least until I have sufficient capital to carry us regardless.
I don't think it's ever a moot point. We each have a finite amount of time in life, so we should live a meaningful life in a way that's important to us, regardless of what we may have done with the time that has already passed by. We make a choice about how to spend our allotment of days either way, every day.

I'm graduating from law school next month - after four years of slogging through night classes and working during the day. I expect the next few years at a big firm will be another slog of a different sort. My "reason for doing it" is that I don't want to work any job - be it 9 hours a day or 12 - until I'm 65, and therefore I want to earn enough, soon enough, to retire early. I saw the writing on the wall in my current field (IT) and decided that lawyers will likely be some of the last rats on the sinking ship before we're all outsourced to Indochina. Hence, law school and the big law job soon to begin.

But I don't plan to stick with the Big Law job for a minute longer than necessary before downshifting and eventually reaching FIRE.

The key for me will be to maintain the low-cost and simple lifestyle that my wife and I are currently living, and avoid the trappings (aptly named) of "success". I think after ER it will be a little easier, but when you are gainfully employed at a good job, it does require vigilance to avoid getting sucked into a high-consumption lifestyle. It's hard to reverse, as you get accustomed to material comforts pretty quickly ... I've seen "wants" and nice-to-haves become "needs" pretty quickly in my life.

Already I'm sure most of our friends think us a bit odd for living in a small home instead of big(ger) house. They'll probably think us a bit odd for a great many things down the road too ... up until the time they think us odd for quitting work at 40!
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Re: Fred's musings seem partiularly apropos
Old 04-17-2006, 10:02 AM   #4
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Re: Fred's musings seem partiularly apropos

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Originally Posted by brewer12345
When I read stuff like this and TiogaRV's blog, I really have to wonder why I have chosen the life I did.* I guess I did so because it was "expected", baked into society's expectations of me and I absorbed and internalized these expectations, especially through the educatory process.* It was unthinkable to go through an elite high school and not continue on through a trajectory of socially approved "success".
Well, first we're blissfully ignorant.* Then, after we became educated, we were already obligated.

When the kids fly the nest, our obligations will be reduced, you'll be ER'd (or at least FI), and you'll be able to act on your education.* Then you'll be able to "start over"...
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Re: Fred's musings seem partiularly apropos
Old 04-17-2006, 10:09 AM   #5
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Re: Fred's musings seem partiularly apropos

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When the kids fly the nest, our obligations will be reduced, you'll be ER'd (or at least FI), and you'll be able to act on your education.* Then you'll be able to "start over"...
That's the carrot, I suppose. We'll see if it pans out.
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Re: Fred's musings seem partiularly apropos
Old 04-18-2006, 12:31 PM   #6
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Re: Fred's musings seem partiularly apropos

Brewer -- I'm going to disagree with you. If you have the intellectual firepower, it would be a waste NOT to pursue a career that stretches your capabilities to their limits. The problem with many smart people is that they need a structured environment with measurable goals and achievements. They lack the self-discipline needed to set their OWN GOALS and the independent work ethic to achieve them. This is because schools don't teach self-discovery and goal-setting, and prior generations claim to know what's best for their children. For example, John and Jane Smith decide early on that their son/daughter, who demonstrates some aptitude for chemistry or biology, will become a doctor and proceed to indoctrinate him/her to that line of thinking from an early age. While it's admirable to push a child into a career that will provide a solid income, parents often do so for their own selfish reasons, regardless of whether it's in their child's best interest (or even what their child might want upon becoming an adult). In many cases, parents push children into careers they themselves would have pursued but for various reasons. It is completely unfair to try and live your life (or your desired life) vicariously through you children. It's not YOUR life.

Martha -- I understand your feeling towards being a Legal Aid lawyer. My limited experience with Legal Aid taught me that many people who come to Legal Aid for free assistance are responsible for their own problems. They've made dozens upon dozens of poor decisions, and in making those decisions knew they were the wrong decisions to make -- but made them anyway. Unfortunately, like lobbying, Legal Aid doesn't allow its lawyers to grab people by the lapels and give them a stern lecture on how they've lived their lives. I could never stomach the idea of simply helping someone out of their immediate problems, knowing full well they would knowingly get themselves into new ones later. At some point, you have to let Darwin's theory operate to its natural conclusion.

Lusitan -- you're following the right path. Don't let BIGLAW convince you otherwise. By not adopting the living standards of the partners in your BIGLAW firm, you'll never make partner. However, since your chances are only 5%-10% anyway, you're better off banking your cash. Furthermore, the only thing that matters in BIGLAW is a book of business (clients). If you don't have your own clients, you are at the mercy of those partners who do, and will forever be a service partner (assuming you even make partner) billing 2,200 hours a year. Assuming you follow the course you've set out for yourself, by the time you reach the partner-making stage (7-9 years out), you should have a pretty nice nest egg (e.g., $350k-500k) put away. At that point, the extra money you would earn as a junior partner (assuming you earn more, remember, you'll be responsible for your benefits, etc...) won't be as tantalizing as it would if you had become dependent on the big paychecks (golden handcuffs).
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Re: Fred's musings seem partiularly apropos
Old 04-18-2006, 01:15 PM   #7
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Re: Fred's musings seem partiularly apropos

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Originally Posted by Jay_Gatsby
Brewer -- I'm going to disagree with you.* If you have the intellectual firepower, it would be a waste NOT to pursue a career that stretches your capabilities to their limits.* The problem with many smart people is that they need a structured environment with measurable goals and achievements.* They lack the self-discipline needed to set their OWN GOALS and the independent work ethic to achieve them.* This is because schools don't teach self-discovery and goal-setting, and prior generations claim to know what's best for their children.* For example, John and Jane Smith decide early on that their son/daughter, who demonstrates some aptitude for chemistry or biology, will become a doctor and proceed to indoctrinate him/her to that line of thinking from an early age.* While it's admirable to push a child into a career that will provide a solid income, parents often do so for their own selfish reasons, regardless of whether it's in their child's best interest (or even what their child might want upon becoming an adult).* In many cases, parents push children into careers they themselves would have pursued but for various reasons.* It is completely unfair to try and live your life (or your desired life) vicariously through you children.* It's not YOUR life.
That wasn't really thr thrust of my post. What I was really getting at was that I think the way we choose careers, lives, etc. seems to be more based on socially driven ideas about "maximizing one's potential", being successful, making use of one's talents, etc. I'm not saying any of those are bad things. But I think they do not necessarily equal chooosing a life that will make you happy.
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Re: Fred's musings seem partiularly apropos
Old 04-18-2006, 03:32 PM   #8
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Re: Fred's musings seem partiularly apropos

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Lusitan -- you're following the right path. Don't let BIGLAW convince you otherwise. By not adopting the living standards of the partners in your BIGLAW firm, you'll never make partner.
Gatsby, I am going to disagree with you here DW is a partner in a BIGLAW firm and we never went the McMansion route. Like Lusitan, we banked a ton of dough so we could choose to work or not.

Lusitan - make what you can of your legal career. You may end up doing something you like. On one of the other threads posters were talking about the joys of the actuary life. Helping Exxon generate the dough to pay it's CEO's retirement package should be as fascinating as that.

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Re: Fred's musings seem partiularly apropos
Old 04-18-2006, 03:43 PM   #9
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Re: Fred's musings seem partiularly apropos

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Gatsby, I am going to disagree with you here * DW is a partner in a BIGLAW firm and we never went the McMansion route.* * Like Lusitan, we banked a ton of dough so we could choose to work or not.

Lusitan - make what you can of your legal career.* You may end up doing something you like. On one of the other threads posters were talking about the joys of the actuary life.* Helping Exxon generate the dough to pay it's CEO's retirement package should be as fascinating as that.

Don
There are exceptions to every rule. Your avatar message indicates you made the jump at 57, so I assume your wife is close in age as well. Assuming further that she made partner 10-15 years ago (or even longer than that), things are completely different today. Regardless, my experience with a couple of BIGLAW firms demonstrated that the partners wanted to be surrounded by people who are like them -- i.e., that spend like them.
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Re: Fred's musings seem partiularly apropos
Old 04-18-2006, 04:01 PM   #10
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Re: Fred's musings seem partiularly apropos

Thanks Gatsby - I'm pretty new around here but I noticed in some of your earlier posts that you were an attorney. I appreciate being able to hear your perspective on FIRE topics since your experience will probably be pretty relevant to my next career.

And thanks for posting that, Don - it gives me hope! I will do my best to keep an open mind and it will be great if I find the work challenging and stimulating (hey, if actuary work can be, I suppose anything can be!) ... but regardless I'll be "living small" and sticking with our plan, partner or not ...
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Re: Fred's musings seem partiularly apropos
Old 04-18-2006, 05:01 PM   #11
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Re: Fred's musings seem partiularly apropos

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There are exceptions to every rule. Your avatar message indicates you made the jump at 57
Humm, I need to fix that. I actually left at 56, I'm 57 now

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my experience with a couple of BIGLAW firms demonstrated that the partners wanted to be surrounded by people who are like them -- i.e., that spend like them.
Yeah, actually I agree with you that such an attitude will predominate. I just wanted to jump on the opportunity to rif on your "I have to disagree with you" quote. But, seriously, if Lusitan can find work he likes at a big firm, he can probably still follow his own path if he is committed to it. His choice to lead a modest lifestyle won't necessarily be viewed as challenging their contrary choices if he isn't self righteous about it.

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Re: Fred's musings seem partiularly apropos
Old 04-18-2006, 05:06 PM   #12
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Re: Fred's musings seem partiularly apropos

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Lusitan -- you're following the right path.* Don't let BIGLAW convince you otherwise.* By not adopting the living standards of the partners in your BIGLAW firm, you'll never make partner.* However, since your chances are only 5%-10% anyway, you're better off banking your cash.* Furthermore, the only thing that matters in BIGLAW is a book of business (clients).* If you don't have your own clients, you are at the mercy of those partners who do, and will forever be a service partner (assuming you even make partner) billing 2,200 hours a year.* Assuming you follow the course you've set out for yourself, by the time you reach the partner-making stage (7-9 years out), you should have a pretty nice nest egg (e.g., $350k-500k) put away.* At that point, the extra money you would earn as a junior partner (assuming you earn more, remember, you'll be responsible for your benefits, etc...) won't be as tantalizing as it would if you had become dependent on the big paychecks (golden handcuffs).
A lot of these assumptions are really only correct for big law firms in big cities.* That really is what most people think of when they think of "BIGLAW." *But it really doesn't have to be that way. *Work at one of the biggest law firms in a smaller market (Salt Lake City, for example), and you'll probably be in an environment where you can make partner on 1900 billables a year, with a 6-7 year partnership track, and a lot more flexibility about the kind of work you do and the kind of car you feel compelled to drive. *Add to that a more relaxed practice in a smaller community of lawyers, and you've got the makings of a reasonably pleasant career.

My point: *there is a multitude of different kinds of jobs for lawyers, and working for "big" law firms isn't necessarily bad.
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Re: Fred's musings seem partiularly apropos
Old 04-18-2006, 05:14 PM   #13
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Re: Fred's musings seem partiularly apropos

In MEDIUMLAW (25 to 50 lawyers) I would make you partner in 7 to 8 years with 1800-1900 billable hours. Could be 5 to 6 years if really performing (great receipts, community service, etc)

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Re: Fred's musings seem partiularly apropos
Old 04-18-2006, 05:31 PM   #14
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Re: Fred's musings seem partiularly apropos

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In MEDIUMLAW (25 to 50 lawyers) I would make you partner in 7 to 8 years with 1800-1900 billable hours. Could be 5 to 6 years if really performing (great receipts, community service, etc)
Don't know anything about law, but curious about it. Why would someone want to make partner? Is it so you can delegate cases to associates or is it for part ownership of the firm? If someone is billing 1900 hours/year, does they usually work a lot more hours than that and just bill 1900 of those hours?

A girl I used to know was an associate and I think she was required to bill 2000 hours a year, but after that she could take the rest of the year off.
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Re: Fred's musings seem partiularly apropos
Old 04-19-2006, 12:21 PM   #15
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Re: Fred's musings seem partiularly apropos

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Don't know anything about law, but curious about it.* Why would someone want to make partner?* Is it so you can delegate cases to associates or is it for part ownership of the firm?* If someone is billing 1900 hours/year, does they usually work a lot more hours than that and just bill 1900 of those hours?

A girl I used to know was an associate and I think she was required to bill 2000 hours a year, but after that she could take the rest of the year off.
A partner is a part owner of the law firm.* He or she will share in the profits (and losses), and will have a say in how the firm is managed.* There's more responsibility and, usually, significantly more money.* Associates are employees.*

It pays to be at the top of the heap in a successful law firm.* A senior partner will probably be able to get a percentage of the billings of the people working on cases the partner brought into the firm.* The partner will also share in the firm's overall profits.* But in my experience, even very senior rainmakers still have to work a lot, and the job can be very stressful.

And yes, to bill 1900 hours, you have to work a lot more than that.* The reason is that you can't bill clients for every thing you do at work.* So I'm guessing your friend probably didn't have a whole lot of time to go on vacations if she had a minimum billable requirement of 2000 hours.
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Re: Fred's musings seem partiularly apropos
Old 04-19-2006, 12:39 PM   #16
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Re: Fred's musings seem partiularly apropos

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So I'm guessing your friend probably didn't have a whole lot of time to go on vacations if she had a minimum billable requirement of 2000 hours.
I thought that was lawyer humor-- 50 weeks of 40-hour workweeks, but you can have the rest of the year off!

The punchline's not so funny when they're 60-hour or even 50-hour workweeks...
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Re: Fred's musings seem partiularly apropos
Old 04-19-2006, 02:44 PM   #17
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Re: Fred's musings seem partiularly apropos

Hehehe... lawyers. Good thing I became a "quitter" and escaped from the legal field after graduating from law school. Life would suck for me right now given billable hour expectations, and I probably wouldn't have much more money to show for it.

Working an honest 40-42 hrs/wk and taking the frequent 3-4 day weekend in my current field is NICE!!! I occasionally think about what my life would be like if I had decided to become a lawyer. Probably no sleeping in until 8-8:30 most days. Slipping out early on Fridays wouldn't happen as often.

Not that there is anything wrong with being a lawyer... Somebody has to keep me out of jail...

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Re: Fred's musings seem partiularly apropos
Old 04-20-2006, 06:10 AM   #18
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Re: Fred's musings seem partiularly apropos

I am a long-time lurker who finally felt I had something useful to contribute to this board. While working as a transactional attorney at one of the biggest law firms in the world (in a large market, but certainly not among the largest) for about 3 years, I aged probably about 7-10 years. 2000 billable hours does not cut it anymore in BIGLAW. 2200 is the new defacto minimum. 2500 is common; 2700 hours starts to put you into "star" status.

The money is nice, but certainly not fantastic, considering the hours and stress. My firm was not known as a "lifestyle" firm, but these hours are not uncommon at any BIGLAW firm (or even many MIDLAW firms). Some attorneys do not mind the hours. For me, however, the tradeoff was not worth it. I left last month without another position lined up.

I was not naive about the work environment when I went in. I knew that 2000 "billable" hours were required. But, this number means nothing without context. Typically, you are working on very time-sensitive matters with very demanding clients who want high quality work and every hour billed documented. Often, I was encouraged to write down my own time. Most lawyers did the same. Then, there were the non-billable "events" lawyers were expected to attend. Also, continuing education and community involvement on top of that. Even the senior partners lead stressful lives. At BIGLAW, I found no one whose life I wanted as my own. Once I learned that a senior partner for whom I worked was the same age as my mother but looked at least 25 years older, I knew I had enough.

Many lawyers are programmed to grin and bear the beating. These are typically very intelligent people who went to the best colleges they could get into, the best law schools they could get into, and then the best law firms they could get into. I was one of them. When I told people that I was leaving without another job lined up yet, they were perplexed. The lawyers understood why I was leaving, but thought I was nuts to do so without something else lined up. The non-lawyers did not understand why I was leaving such a "prestigious" position. "Drudgery" in a non-firm environment looks pretty good to me in comparison.

Leaving is the first thing I have done for myself in a while. I am certainly no better off financially for doing this, but I had saved enough to start my FIRE goal and to tide me over while thinking about what I really want to do "when I grow up." To all of you, be true to yourselves. Don't catch the golden handcuff syndrome and leave on your terms. If you know you have an out, it makes the job almost bearable.
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Re: Fred's musings seem partiularly apropos
Old 04-20-2006, 02:27 PM   #19
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congrats blueline. Sorry it took you 3 years to figure it out, but I guess the money you earned (and hopefully saved) was good.

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Old 04-20-2006, 03:20 PM   #20
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Re: Fred's musings seem partiularly apropos

blueline, welcome! I know nothing about what interests you, but I worked at an estate planning firm (specialized in setting up trusts etc.) as their LAN admin. Many of the attorneys there were former BIGLAW guys who said enough is enough and changed over to this feild mid-career, and were very happy about it. If they were being totally honest, they admitted to a little boredom, but the money was good (enough) and they had a life outside work.
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