Lawyer in DC Life

posted 3 months ago in Relationships
Post # 2
Member
4948 posts
Honey bee

swissmiss77 :  my cousin was a lawyer in Biglaw in DC for many years. She had no life outside of work. But she made serious cash. So she sucked it up for a few years while she padded her bank account to become financially independent and now does whatever she wants. 

Post # 3
Member
8051 posts
Bumble Beekeeper

Biglaw bee here (but not in DC). I’ll offer just a brief perspective from my POV: my Darling Husband is the most incredible, patient, understanding human on earth to deal with me when I have to work all kinds of random hours / when I’m waiting around for docs or a call and unable to leave the house / etc. It’s difficult for *me* to come to grips with how understanding and patient he is when he’s the one making much more than me and I often feel like I’m the worst life partner in the world, but he’s a total champ about it and doesn’t think twice. He knows this is the career I’ve chosen and has been supportive every step of the way since we were little baby freshmen in undergrad. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t get to him sometimes — this past NYE weekend, I was working on and off pretty much right up until the ball dropped, and even though we had no formal plans and were just hanging out at home, he had basically spent the whole weekend with our kitty keeping him company and with me holed up in our home office on calls. Once the deal signed, he admitted that he really missed me and was sad, so I showered him with attention and we spent all of New Year’s Day doing whatever he wanted.

What helps us get through the roughest times with my work is him being flexible (with plans, with meals, etc.) whenever it’s possible, but also me being cognizant at all times about what’s really important to him and about things that we just can’t be flexible about. For example, if we have tickets to a play or a game, I’ll make it 10000% clear to my bosses that I’m unavailable then. I won’t let us miss that. I might have to check and respond to emails during intermissions/timeouts/etc., but I will not cancel on him.

What also helps is that when I don’t have anything work-related going on, we take full advantage. We’ll go to places we’ve had on our list for awhile, go on little trips out of town, or just cuddle in front of the TV and catch up on our favorite shows. And during that time, my attention is completely focused on him and what we’re doing. My phone goes away.

tl;dr: Flexibility, but the ability to prioritize the things that really matter, is key for us.

Oh and as for hours, mine overall aren’t bad at all (we have no minimum billables and are just encouraged to shoot for ~40 hours per week), the problem is that they are completely unpredictable. Before the NYE weekend I mentioned above, I was barely billing 10 hours a week for several weeks. As for perks, I can work from home whenever I want and come into the office / leave the office whenever I want. So that means I can maximize time at home with Darling Husband and get home to him in the evenings, even if I have to do some work later at night from home.

(I guess this wasn’t brief lol. Sorry!)

Post # 4
Member
274 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: October 2017

Used to work at a couple of big law firms as an assistant. Not in DC but being a lawyer is not synonymous with the words ‘having a life’. 

Post # 5
Member
801 posts
Busy bee

Hi there! My Fiance is a junior partner at a magic circle firm. We sat down and had a conversation about a year ago about who would have the “primary” job. Not everyone will agree with this approach, but we both want a family and quite simply the sort of life we want to have together cannot be achieved if we both have crazy jobs. So I have recently gone part time, and I am able to look after the home etc. Regarding his hours, he tries to start early and then come home at a decent time, but he always has to do work in the evenings. And he’s literally ALWAYS checking emails on his phones which used to drive me crazy but I’m over it now. We set up a home office for him so at least he is present in the evening. We made a rule to always have dinner together and this mostly works. I accompany him on work trips, conferences or to events wherever possible, and I really do suggest trying to make that a priority. Associates and senior associates may have less flexibility with work schedules, but even when Fiance was a senior associate he was able to set some boundaries in terms of work hours etc. Otherwise they will bleed him dry! I’m not in the legal field myself, but my impressions are it can be very draining, competitive and ruthless at times, so it’s important for my Fiance to relax and unwind and sometimes vent when he comes home. I make it a priority to emotionally support him, and of course he does for me too! xo

ps. wow sorry not sure why my text is huge 

Post # 6
Member
34 posts
Newbee

Hi! Biglaw attorney here. First thing’s first, congrats to your SO! Second, I agree with pretty much everything GridMonster said above. I also do deal work and my hours fluctuate greatly and are pretty unpredictable. My SO is also an attorney but works in a significantly more “predictable” practice group, so he doesn’t deal with the ebbs and flows of deal work like I do, though his job is also demanding. For example, similar to GridMonster, I worked all of NYE/NYD (lol). I think the important thing to remember as an SO of a biglaw associate (especially a junior one) is that we’re not ever trying to ignore you or put you second, the job can just be overwhelming and all consuming at times. Depending on how senior you are (I assume GridMonster is more senior than me, considering the flexibility she described above) you basically have no control or ownership over your time. You are always on call and always expected to be responsive. This can be luck of the draw – you could get awesome senior associates or partners that respect your personal time – but I wouldn’t rely on it. This means canceled events, dates and sometimes even vacations are to be expected. My SO is really good about not making me feel guilty for missing events, canceling dates or working on vacation, and I really appreciate that I’m with someone who understands the lifestyle. Some of my colleagues have dealt with less than understanding SOs and I do think it’s pretty difficult to explain to someone when you’re stuck in the office until 2AM that it’s simply not your choice. I guess one thing that has been a game changer for my relationship personally is hiring help to clean the house. I think a biglaw salary is pretty much the greatest (arguably, only) perk of the job. Happy to answer any other more specific questions. 

Post # 7
Member
1455 posts
Bumble bee

I briefly dated a guy who was a junior at a BigLaw firm in NYC. He seemed like a great guy but the primary reason I broke it off was that I just couldn’t see us being compatible in the long term with his lifestyle. He often worked into the wee hours of the night, got little sleep, and would work 16+ hour days. He had to frequently check his phone for client emails during dates, and was always on call. Work-life balance is really important to me, so I didn’t feel like we were a match. I know that I’d feel neglected and get resentful if I were with someone like that long term, even though it was totally through no fault of his own. I think it takes a certain type of person to be able to handle that kind of lifestyle. 

Post # 8
Member
1833 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: August 2014

Just to give you a sense of what life with a big law attorney is like – my husband recently made partner at his firm. They had a dinner to recognize all the new partners, and every single person I spoke with there congratulated ME on my “accomplishment” aka putting up with it. To be it frankly, work is constant. Nights, weekends, weddings, funerals, vacations – it doesn’t matter. My husband has missed trips, weddings, funerals, or worked through those things. It can be draining. I’m an attorney as well, and I can’t imagine someone who doesn’t fully understand what this life is like signing up for it. A PP mentioned that she went PT to be more flexible – that may work for her, but that would drive me absolutely nuts – all the sitting around and waiting for someone who may not be coming home until 11 pm. You will just have to find what works for you. My best advice is to open the lines of communication about life will be like. Will you be expected to do all the house work even though you work full time as well? Will his salary afford opportunity for some help around the house? Another thing to consider – if you don’t already live in DC, although the salary may seem great, once you live here, it doesn’t go very far, especially if your SO had to take out loans 

Post # 12
Member
1833 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: August 2014

swissmiss77 :  Yes, that’s what my husband does. I know a lot of patent lawyers, and I’ve never seen a group of people work more collectively. They may be in trial less frequently, but honestly, trial is just such a small part of what they do. When he goes to trial, he is gone for weeks at a time.  But it’s the day to day stuff that keeps him gone on nights and weekends not trial. As I speak, my husband is in our dining room working at 11 am on a Saturday (and has been working since 7 am). I would not have the expectation that your SO’s hours would be any different. Happy to talk further if you have any specific question about life with a patent lawyer.

Post # 13
Member
1833 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: August 2014

swissmiss77 :  I guess it depends on what you mean by worth it. It’s nice to have the financial freedom his job gives us. But, now that he is a partner, he is essentially starting over as he is now at the bottom of the partner totem pole, so to speak. So, more long nights and weekends to move his way up and prove himself, all over again. I think people have an expectation that once you make partner, you get to work less, but I’ve found the opposite to be true. We’ve already had to turn down a trip with friends this month because of his work schedule. We don’t have children, and honestly, I’m not sure how I’ll manage when the time comes. We don’t have family near us so it will be just the two of us.

Post # 15
Member
34 posts
Newbee

swissmiss77 :  The hours are more predictable in patent litigation day-to-day than they are in M&A pretty much until trial hits and then all hell breaks loose. There are still always going to be late nights, though. Being a law student is not even a fraction of as demanding as being a biglaw attorney. My SO, despite already having gone to my law school and practicing for 5+ years by the time I started, found it to be a huge adjustment in our relationship. I was (am) significantly more stressed and less patient (bless his heart) than I ever was in law school and have a fraction of the amount of free time I had in law school. Making partner comes with its own stressors; in fact, every stage of biglaw comes with different stressors.  Sometimes, I think that junior partners have it worse than junior associates. The only person who can tell you it will be “worth it” is him. To be honest, I don’t think having a relationship with a biglaw associate/partner is “worth it” for a lot of people. 

To be quite frank (and maybe a little harsh), I think you’re going to have to adjust your expectations by a lot. It won’t be anything like it is now. If he’s gunning for partner, you’ll have to accept that canceled plans are par for the course and just appreciate the time he has to spare (even if that entire time may be complaining about work) with basically no end in sight. 

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