Emperical Legal Studies on the Pay/Workweek Differentials by Firm Size, and the Temerity of Youth
"Despite all the publicity about large law firms and their race for talent, the fact is that most new graduates neither take jobs in big firms nor start at salaries that have now reached $160,000 at many large firms," adds the NALP. "For the Class of 2006, the vast majority of graduates who were employed as of February 15, 2007 (71% of those employed) started work in small firms of 50 or fewer lawyers, or in non-firm settings, such as government, public interest, or business. Just 20% took jobs in firms of more than 100 lawyers."
. . . many lawyers in smaller firms end up earning a comfortable living (e.g., in
my recent ISBA survey, a median partner in a 2-5 lawyer firm in Indiana makes $112,500 per year and works approximately 49 hours per week; the 75th percentile earns $162,500 per year; the 90th, $225,000). For many young lawyers (but not all), patience and careful planning may be the best route to a practice setting that provides financial rewards, interesting work, and sustainable work/family balance. I encourage my students to keep their eyes open and take charge of their careers, starting now, while in law school.
. . . But the 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.