I went straight in-house after law school and I often wish I went into private practice. I feel that I’m not as sharp as I should be because I didn’t spend my formative years in private practice. It’s been 6 years now. I’ve been on fishbowl for a month and those of you in private practice make it sound like hell. Do any of you enjoy it?

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On Friday, two partners got into an argument because both needed me to help them with a Wednesday deadline. So they compromised and decided i would work for one until Monday and the other until Wednesday. Reasonable enough. Problem is that Wednesday would’ve been an aggressive deadline for either project. So I ended up working all weekend, including from 8 am Sunday until 2:45 am Monday straight. Moral of the story: even if you do your job well, you’ll still get pulled apart (like the rope in a game of tug of war).

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I don’t know anyone who loves their biglaw experience. I think you have to be driven by money and prestige (nothing wrong with that) to an above-average level to tolerate it long-term. Coming out of law school I thought I was made for biglaw and now I can’t wait to get out after three years.

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SAME! I left after almost 4! 😂

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Associate1 is spot on. I was in house for 5 years and moved into private practice. Working in house was the shit. Normal jobs don’t have a constant expectation of response after hours and socializing is more acceptable because you’re not taking time away from billing. I can’t wait to go back. That said, you’ll learn more than you can imagine in private practice. I did it because it’s worth it for the knowledge and skills. But A1 is right, when you look around you realize you don’t want to live like any of the partners. I’m counting down the days until I can go back in house. If you like where you are your career path, don’t go to a law firm. I did it because I needed to shift the path I was on.

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It is a constant conflict, there are moments (sometimes daily) where it is painful and sucks. Then there are moments where it feels amazing and like you're doing something real and progressing. No matter how hellish it is in the moment, the truth is as long as you avoid the being stuck with only the most menial tasks going through the awful hours will force you to get better quickly.

At the same time, I look around at the people I have seen who have stuck it out (partners) and constantly question if I would ever want to be like them or have their lives. I regularly wonder whether in house would be better (especially since I went to a practice area where going in house afterwards is not an easy option.) As someone who graduated law school in my mid twenties, there is a constant nagging fear that I am burning the best days of my life on something that ultimately I want to escape.

This is a long way of saying the grass is always greener. These choices are different but there's never a right choice.

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I am in private practice and it is my dream. I love what I do and who I work for. Catch is that I work at a very small (my boss and I) boutique trademark firm. We have always been remote even before the pandemic and because of my practice area I can make my own hours. So, yes my experience in private practice is amazing, but I realize this is not the standard experience.

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I have the same experience as OP. Even my internship/clerkships were in house (with one exception in a field I’m passionate about, entertainment/IP law). After law school I went straight in house, and have the same FOMO. My boss (GC) has been candid that I likely don’t make as much as my peers, but my work/life balance is likely much better. At times I’d rather suffer the long hours and have the money, but other times I’m not so sure. This week has been a good example: I’m preparing to go on vacation for 2 weeks, and I know I won’t be called or interrupted. If I am, it’s perfectly acceptable to politely tell the person to buzz off. My spouse likes the balance, but there are definitely times I’d rather have the money.

Totally hear the lack of sharpness, too. I feel at times like I’m not a “real” lawyer or “really” practicing law. It’s just different in house. When I get around other legal colleagues, my spouse tells me I’m being silly because we are practically speaking in a foreign language.

All that to say, it’s different. The feelings are real, but we get other advantages. I struggle with similar feelings, OP.

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A few reasons. I had work experience prior to law school, making me more attractive to hiring managers who were not attorneys - less intimidating. All of my experience in law school was in-house, so I knew the dynamic. I took a non-counsel role while studying for the bar, and was promoted to counsel once I passed the bar.

Firms generally pay more, or at least provide better bonuses. I’m not at a huge company, and having started much lower than I am now, so the feeling is that I’m getting great experience, so that should overcome the pay gap. Bigger companies will pay better, but you’re more locked into a niche. I’m on a team of 2 lawyers for the whole company, so I get a wide variety of issues. Since I want to be a GC someday, this is really valuable experience. Lack of bonuses, lower base, no equity... I’m paying my dues now for the experience so I can reap the benefits at my next job. Just wish I didn’t have to!

No. I’ve been trying to land an in-house job for 3 years. I can’t wait to get out.

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No, I know only one person (out of my entire class) who legitimately loves it and could see herself staying for partnership. Everyone else hated/hates it. I left after almost 4 years even without having another job lined up, that's how much I hated it. Never been happier! (Looking back, I realized I never should've done that in the first place coz right at the beginning, I knew I never wanted to be partner or work in a firm for a long time. Now I feel like I wasted time learning things I didn't need, for nothing. I should've gone and went straight to wherever I wanted to specialize in and could see myself working in the future.)

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That’s a dilemma I have as well. I’m in my first year (2019 grad) in commercial litigation and I just don’t enjoy it. I like the people I work for, but I don’t enjoy commercial litigation at all and fear it’s actually inhibiting my plans for the future.

After I left school I went immediately into an insane criminal defense boutique firm. 20 hour days all over 2 states 6-7 days a week.

After I burned out from that after 5 years I literally only did per diem work for 2 years to get my mind right. Made good money doing that but no health insurance or anything like that. I have been at a small firm (4 attorneys) for the past 3+ years now. It is the first time since I started that I have an office that runs like an office should. Paralegals to help, receptionist and other various staff members who participate. I can not imagine anything worse than the 5 years of what seems like a ship that is always sinking and all you can do is try to plug holes.

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I have been practicing for almost 20 years, I have worked as a judicial clerk, been in private practice and worked in-house. After my clerkship (btw best job ever, if it paid even minimum wage) I worked in private practice for a couple of years before going in house with an insurance company. I hated the expected hours, the partners walking around on Saturday to see if you were there and the assignment of tasks on Saturday evening with a Monday morning deadline. Learned to hate it very quickly. I also didn’t like the politics of having to basically step on other associates to get ahead.

I then went in house and loved it. No politics, no partnership track, I had the same job as every other attorney in the office and we all helped each other out, because ultimately no one was needing to get a leg up. I left there after getting a lucrative offer to join a private firm. My thought at the time was that maybe my first experience in private practice was an outlier... I was wrong. It doesn’t matter the firm, if it is of any size, there is politics, billable hours, unreasonable clients etc. I found it wasn’t for me. I left the firm after only a couple of years and have never left being in house counsel since. My advice, you can always educate yourself if you feel you are lacking in an area, but the grass is not always greener in the private world.

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I’m in private practice as a first year and I know 100% that I don’t want to be here forever. It’s great training though, but I’m not interested in billing for the rest of my life.

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