The Street Smart Law Blog

Writing 2
  • Frederick L Shelton

Escape the Nightmare of BigLaw

You had this dream of being a lawyer. You watched legal TV shows and movies read

legal books. You worked hard in college and rejoiced on the day you were accepted into law school. So did your parents. They became insufferable with their friends and you smiled every time you heard them bragging about their kid going to law school. When you got into law school you heard all about BigLaw. The prestige, the huge deals and cases and most of all, the money! So you worked even harder and it paid off. You were given an offer by an AmLaw firm!

The first year was horrible. Yes, they paid you well but they got their pound of flesh in return. You practically never saw your friends and family because you were literally working seven days a week.

You worked so hard that the only relief you had was unhealthy. Drinking, drugs, porn, consumerism, whatever it was, the studies show it wasn't good.

Years into your career, the romanticized version of what you imagined turned into something you didn’t enjoy anymore. You didn’t like the work. You were still working ridiculous hours. Some of the clients you protected were nothing less than despicable. The competition within your firm was just as fierce or worse than with competitors. Maybe you didn't like who you became as a result of the decisions you made.

But you had so much invested in being able to say “I'm a lawyer at X BigLaw firm.” It became your identity and the label everyone in your family proudly referred to. It was an insidious trap and now you’ve found yourself bound within it.

Here's the thing, you don't have to be a BigLaw Lawyer anymore. You don’t have to be a lawyer at all.

But if you still love the law, you can at least walk away from BigLaw.

Clients are leaving BigLaw as fast as attorneys are. Less than ten percent of the work out there is Bet The Company level.

Smaller firms, boutiques, virtual firms, accounting firms and ALSP’s are capturing more market share every day. I talk with partners at firms with less than one hundred attorneys, where the profits per partner range from $900,000 to over $2M. So you don't necessarily have to walk away from the upsides.

Technology is wiping out hundreds of millions of dollars, worth of billable work and that is only going to continue. BigLaw is in serious trouble and the Old Guard is in denial. Even the partners who do know what’s coming have no idea how to deal with it.

Okay let's be clear. There ARE exceptions. There are firms with over 500 attorneys, where you could work 50 hours a week or less and still be a partner. Maybe you have a great social and family life, excellent health and clients you truly admire and care about. If so, congratulations.

But if there was ever a time to walk away from BigLaw and become a Legal Rebel, it’s now.

You can life a lifestyle that includes month long vacations to Europe or the South Pacific. You can set rates where you want and work with the clients you want. Go on dates, make it to the kid’s recitals, get in the best shape of your life, dance, golf, whatever. It's there for you.

Or your can stay in a place that creates ridiculously high rates of depression, drug abuse, divorce, estranged kids who hate their parents, and heart attacks by the age of fifty. The difference is that now, the choice is yours.

Of this seems like I'm bashing BigLaw, it's because after 25 years of placing attorneys, we've stopped working with all but three of the AmLaw 200. All we do is pull people out of firms that are exactly as described. That's not a prestigious career. It's a trap.