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I'd like to know more about jobs in the legal field

I'm a second year law student in a french university. I'd like to pursue a career in law but I am wondering about the work/life balance
#attorney #law #law-school #lawyer


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Charles’s Answer

Mariam,

That's an excellent question. I did not attend law school (UCLA in Los Angeles) until I had worked for four years as an insurance claims adjuster and supervisor in the fields of liability and workers' compensation. My major concern (other than what I perceived as the generally low level of esteem in which lawyers are held) was work-life balance. I wanted to work hard and perform well, but I also wanted to have children (I was married and owned a small home when I started law school). I started out after law school working for a small business litigation firm that emphasized contractual and construction-related disputes. I found that this small firm (about nine attorneys when I started) did not require as many "billable hours" as the larger firms.

After our daughter was born, I wanted to cut back slightly in my hours, because I was leaving work when my infant was asleep and returning home shortly before her bedtime. So, when she was two years old, I quite my job (after 5 years at this firm) and hired on with an insurance company as a workers' compensation litigator. I have now been in that field for 31 years, employed for the past 10 years as a managing attorney who started an in-house law department for my insurance company employer.

This choice enabled me to have a fulfilling legal career and be extremely involved in the lives of our two daughters, and much later, our two granddaughters, who lived with us for about six years when they were young.

So, in summary, don't let the work-life balance scare you off from practicing law. Many positions exist at companies and with governmental and public agencies that permit attorneys to have a great career and still have time for family and other interests and hobbies.

Best of luck to you Mariam!

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Mary’s Answer

Hello Mariam!

Practicing law can be a rewarding and personally fulfilling career. I would recommend you find an area of law that interests you. As a criminal defense lawyer, I worked long hours, most weekends, and lost a lot of sleep from the overwhelming responsibilities that come with defending people against serious charges. But I met my husband and many lifelong friends on the job, and helped thousands of people, so for me, it was worth it. If you are a transactional lawyer writing contracts, for example, or handling wills and trusts, or in-house counsel in a company, you will likely have more normal working hours. If you are considering law as a career as a means to earn a large salary, you will have to work long hours in a very competitive atmosphere where you are always trying to impress the partners with hard work and long hours, while competing against other associates. Divorce law can be very stressful, too, but, for the divorce lawyers I know, there’s not a lot of overtime.

Good luck!

Mary recommends the following next steps:

Ask yourself why you are considering going to law school. Is there a particular type of law that interests you? Then research what types of attorney positions exist within that speciality.
Law school is difficult and needs your undivided attention. Make sure you really want to commit before you do it.

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Paul’s Answer

Hey Mariam - I am not a lawyer either, but work/life balance is a challenge in any role. You'll have to make sacrifices in both parts of your life. I'd recommend getting as much experience as you can in law while you are in college. There are many types of law and some take more time than others. Find the one you enjoy working around the most.

Another exercise I'd recommend you do is making two lists:
1. Work - What is an ideal work situation for you, what are your top priorities? List them out in order, because it will be hard to get them all.
2. Life - What is your ideal life situation? Your top priorities? List them out in order as well in the same exercise as above.


As you get to the point where you need to make sacrifices in your work or your life, you have some idea of what you want. Your list will change over time, but this was really helpful for me as I got older.

Paul recommends the following next steps:

Make a list of your top priorities in life and work

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Jim’s Answer

I am a non lawyer but having been fortunate to have worked with many as colleagues in various firms. I agree, private practice can lead to long hours. As revenue is generated through billable hours, there is an incentive to have junior staff put in considerable time. That is not a problem per se, but it is a fair trade off for what will hopefully be amazing training and exposure.

I worked with corporate attorneys i.e. in-house litigation teams, privacy law, contract law and those who interfaced with government and regulatory bodies. The hours can also be long(ish) but there is more of a work life balance.

I have friends on the public side. From what i understand, the work life balance is better, but the compensation tends to be less. However, as a public servant, there is a certain level of pride that they enjoy and appreciate.

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Belén’s Answer

Hi Marian,

Fortunately this concept has been changing, today the balance between your professional an personal life is taking more into consideration if you work for a company or a law firm.

This is a change that new generations have been promoting, so don't be afraid put this question on the table when you decide where do you want to work, if it's important for you should be important for your employer.

Go for it!

Belen


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Lily’s Answer

I can only speak from the perspective of a corporate lawyer. I started my career by practicing in big law firms for 6 years. I worked extremely long hours, 16 hour days were common. Even as a corporate attorney, working in a firm means extremely long hours when you are working on a merger or venture financing for a company. The training is invaluable, but nonetheless difficult.

I left law firm life and went in-house. Now, I have pretty good work-life balance. I generally work standard work hours, but make myself available after hours if needed (because I run the legal team and am an executive of the company). However, I can generally now have a family, spend quality time with my family after hours and during weekends. There are busy times, but it doesn't even come close to the hours I worked at the firm.

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Fiona’s Answer

I can't answer for all lawyers, but for big firm corporate finance lawyers, life for the first 6-8 years will usually be very very tough. It is an important time where you are expected to do the hours and it is also important you grow and learn (exponentially) during this time. It does get better, once you have sufficient experience, you may be able to change into an inhouse position which will generally provide you with decent salary and good work life balance.

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James’s Answer

Hi Mariam!

Lawyers are known for working long hours, but lots of legal jobs provide a good work/life balance. If you work at a large law firm, you will generally be working a lot of hours. In-house attorneys, government attorneys, and lawyers at smaller firms tend to have a better work/life balance, but it all depends!

James

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Belén’s Answer

Hi Marian,

Fortunately this concept has been changing, today the balance between your professional an personal life is taking more into consideration if you work for a company or a law firm.

This is a change that new generations have been promoting, so don't be afraid put this question on the table when you decide where do you want to work, if it's important for you should be important for your employer.

Go for it!

Belen


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