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Potential job change; Massive pay cut - Corporate City Lawyer to in-house lawyer HELP!

(27 Posts)
Deeperthanathousandcuts Mon 27-Feb-17 20:55:27

I have three kids and a most wonderful fiancé whom I love dearly, however, I work for a very prestigious City law firm that pays very very well. The downside is that I work around the clock and it is really impacting my family life, my previous husband was a lawyer also so he 'got it' but my fiancé works in a different field where he enjoys a healthy work/life balance. He's urged me to look at alternatives so that I can spend more time with him and my 3 children. Here's the issue: my salary would be cut in half if I take an in-house position and the work/life balance would be better but would still have me working like a dog. We've also looked at working for a charity but the money is even less but I'm hearing great things about flexibility and the ability to do pretty much 9-5.

Have any of you made the switch from a very well paid job (400k) and taken a job which pays far less in my case around 80k, if so, are you glad you made the move, is it hard to adjust; is it still very rewarding?

Junebugjr Mon 27-Feb-17 21:43:45

I think the danger in making the switch is that you may still be working just as hard but for far less pay. IME Charities and the third sector are not as well run as other sectors.
My career is not in Law, but I have left more high flying posts for 'easier' roles and still ended up flogging my guts out at 1am. And that was in a charity.
Is there any flexibility in your current role, would being promoted lead to more control over your hours?

PippaFawcett Mon 27-Feb-17 21:49:17

Think v v carefully about this. The Third Sector is often a mess and many charities, even the household names, are very frustrating environments to work in, you could end up working just as hard for less money. You say this stems from your fiancé, what do you want? How are the DC? Presumably your income means you can afford a nanny/cleaner etc to make life easier. I took an easier job a few years ago and I am bored out of my brain at work, the job is flexible and easy and I see the kids more, but I feel like I'm wasting my life in an organisation I don't feel any passion for.

Deeperthanathousandcuts Mon 27-Feb-17 22:02:50

They are very good considerations. Yes we have a nanny and a cleaner but I only really get to see my DC over the weekend as I get in from work very late. My fiancé is amazing, he's only their step-dad but has been ever so supportive, I just think he misses me when I'm always at work.

A friend of mine made the jump to a charity who has mirrored what you both said upthread about it being disorganised chaos. Also, I may well be bored in a role such as the one I described above, at the moment I have advise on a whole host of matters for very successful, wealthy business women/men, it would be a 180 with a Charity being my client.

It's ridiculous but I also wonder how we'd manage from a routine point of view taking such a drastic cut in my salary. It's true what you say you spend what you earn and we don't think twice about buying nice things.

I just don't want my kids feeling second best to my career.

MissBeehiving Mon 27-Feb-17 22:09:41

Is there anyway that your current employer will allow part time working? I'm a lawyer and have unpredictable hours sometimes but have an arrangement that I work when I'm needed, bank the hours and then have time off at a time convenient to us both.

That might sort out your work/life balance and maintain your current in demand skill set.

MissBeehiving Mon 27-Feb-17 22:11:59

What about in house but in a more corporate role - the charity sector is a bit chaotic

Deeperthanathousandcuts Mon 27-Feb-17 22:18:29

Hi Miss, unfortunately not. I work in M&A and am needed around the clock. We thought about the Charity sector as a friend of mine said it was uber flexible and her employer was exceptionally understanding and she has colleagues in other mair charities who enjoy the same levels of flexibility.

I have also been looking at General Counsel roles in a few of the big tech companies whom I also believe are pretty good with flexible working. I think I just need to look around and see what's out there.

WhisperedLoudest Mon 27-Feb-17 22:23:50

General Counsel roles in MNCs aren't flexible - sorry!

You won't pull all nighters - although frankly you should be past that at your stage in your private practice career - but you will need to be available 24/7 and depending on where you're based/ HQd/bulk of the business runs there are likely a considerable number of out of hours, hours.

You'll earn your current salary + though

ManoloChooBoutin Mon 27-Feb-17 22:24:50

Take a look at Peerpoint. It's an arm of A&O but is contract / flexible.

Outside of that, our in house legal team (in a corporate, not 3rd sector / charity) looks to have a reasonable work life balance. Suspect the leader of that team is on maybe half what you earn now, maybe a bit more. The next most senior are probably on the 80k range.

Spice22 Mon 27-Feb-17 22:25:18

£400k shock Don't quit. Not to be silly but how do u adjust from £400k to £80k (obviously if u lost your job then u have no choice, but willingly?)

How old are your kids? I ask because if they are preteens/teens then sorry but they don't really care about not seeing you during the week and probably enjoy your income more than you (they still see you weekends!)

Surely your fiancé met you as a lawyer? If I were you (and I slightly wish I was), I'd keep pushing for a few more years and retire early.

WhisperedLoudest Mon 27-Feb-17 22:26:36

Actually that's unfair, you won't be counting your life in 6min slots so you'll get many more opportunities to attend sports matches/recitals/productions etc but it needs to be balanced out with evenings/weekends. GC role is never going to be a 40 hour week.

Mummynextdoor Mon 27-Feb-17 22:37:02

I was earning a decent six figure salary in private practice in corporate/commercial work, but like you working really horrible hours, never saw my son. As a result of trying to juggle everything and the toxic nature of the firm I became quite ill with it all. I took a 50 per cent pay cut to go in house - I am not the most senior member of the team but that doesn't bother me - I work 9 to 5 and most weeks work from home one day. The pay cut makes a difference in terms of holidays, we would love to move but can't and we can't afford to pay for private education but it's been worth it for my health and to be able to put my children to bed at night. I work for a finance related company but not in London.

MrsWobble3 Mon 27-Feb-17 22:39:35

I'm not an M&A lawyer but have a job with a big pay packet and the workload and commitment that goes with it. My children are older now (uni age) and I can honestly say that I don't think they suffered from me not being around. I missed out on things but I don't think they did. But I had a very supportive dh. I think you need to be clear about what you want to do and why - as a pp has pointed out, you can afford to retire much sooner on £400k than £80k.

So it's working out the compromises that work for you and your family. I suspect long hours are a lot easier when cushioned by a big salary so you want to be sure any change will deliver in terms of better hours - and that it's what you actually want. I decided that a shorter harder interesting working life was preferable to a longer one - but you must decide what works for you.

Deeperthanathousandcuts Mon 27-Feb-17 22:40:30

Whisperedloudest - I have a close friend who works for a MNC and works from home 2-3 days a week and is the GC hence my focus on charities. Unfortunately I do still need to work around the clock as a consequence of my specialism. Transactional work is always very time consuming and I'm frequently travelling abroad which means more time away.

Yes I know Spice it all sounds very Upper middle class problems of me because I recognise that 80k is still a significant amount of £ but that kind of reduction won't go unnoticed in our household.

I have 2 pre-teens and a teen. They don't often see their dad but my fiancé is truly wonderful with them and we have a live in nanny who is a great help. I just miss them that's all.

Manolo will check that out, thanks!

Fiancé obviously accepts my career but is angling to spend more time with me as currently I see him for 2 hours a night and then most weekends.Im approaching 40 so maybe a few more years doing this before I pack it in, in search for something more family friendly.

wrinkleseverywhere Mon 27-Feb-17 22:54:56

What are your outgoings? Is the mortgage paid off? Are you paying school fees? What are your plans for Uni fees? How much do you have in savings?

Bloomed Mon 27-Feb-17 23:00:27

Could you do a couple more years, maybe as a GC, then retire early? What sector does your fiancé work in?

JW13 Mon 27-Feb-17 23:06:08

I went in house almost 3 years ago and I much prefer it to private practice. But I'm not GC level (next level down in a small team although a pretty big/well known company) and I work consistently 9.30-7.30/8 not including commute. Sometimes later and frequently work a bit when supposedly on holiday (including most days of a 2 week holiday last year) and weekends/evenings. I'm pretty much always on call and there is no downtime apart from the week between Xmas and new year.

That probably sounds much better than your hours but I don't have kids and I'm exhausted all the time! In my experience in-House is much more intense than private practice - there are no quiet periods e.g. when you've just closed a deal/finished a litigation.

I took a not insignificant pay cut (although nowhere near as big as yours - maybe 30%) and whilst I wasn't expecting to work 9-5, I was expecting to have more of a work life balance which hasn't materialised.

We are now considering children and I'm not sure how it will work. My husband is a partner in a law firm and our hours are similar - his often longer than mine but he tends to have more autonomy/downtime as he's a transactional lawyer. I guess we'll have to have a nanny...

If you can find something in the private sector rather than a charity then it might be worth it, but I wouldn't drop your salary to charity levels as I don't think your work life balance will be equivalently better as a GC somewhere unless you have a big team below you or a big budget to farm work out with. I only know of one GC who has that set up, everybody else works v v hard and are on call to the director's whims 24/7 (my GC said she hadn't had a proper holiday for 5 years before I joined as something always kicked off when she was away). And then there's travelling for work....

Don't get me wrong, a lot of the time I love my job, it's my dream industry and there are great perks. But if the salary drop had been as big as yours and the work life balance was like mine is, I'd be annoyed to say the least!!!

JW13 Mon 27-Feb-17 23:06:37

Sorry that was an essay!! confused

JW13 Mon 27-Feb-17 23:08:01

Sorry - not only was that an essay but it posted twice! confused

witwootoodleoo Mon 27-Feb-17 23:12:42

Have you thought about the Government Legal Service? They seem to work very regular hours and may be less chaotic than the third sector

WhisperedLoudest Tue 28-Feb-17 07:10:15

MNC= multi national company not charity. I don't know much about the third sector my experience is in MNCs and I'd say GC roles in most of those are more comparable with pp than you seem to think.

Dropping to £80k is a huge shift - especially assuming you have the house, school fees & cars all commonplace at £400k.

And it's not just the extras it's the opportunity to provide additional financial security and a hope of early retirement.

yorkshirepuddingandroastbeef Tue 28-Feb-17 09:22:53

I would do an awful lot of research before you leave a job paying £400k.

At a big tech company, I would imagine that you would still work long hours.
The pace at those types of companies is incredibly fast and the main motivator for those at the top is money. DH works at one and works flat out all the time.

Also, if you dropped to an £80k salary would you be able to afford a nanny and cleaner? You might find that you are still having to work hard and pick up the slack at home so still not have a lot of family time.

Sorry, you're in a bit of a golden handcuffs situation I think.

EssentialHummus Tue 28-Feb-17 09:43:41

Like a PP I think you need to look at your outgoings and what you need to earn at a minimum. From there think about what an ideal role would look like - GC level, but with more WFH opportunities? A tech company? A different firm, in a partnership role (assuming you're a partner now)?

I think £400k to £80k is an unhelpful way of looking at it - your outgoings currently are likely to be high, and £80k could be anything from an NQ at Clifford Chance to the CEO of a small charity, so doesn't narrow things down at all.

emsyj37 Wed 01-Mar-17 21:11:38

If you enjoy your job (and it sounds like you do) then dont give it up. I left law (junior associate at MC) and am now a civil servant (also left London so not suffering London property prices!) I am much happier now, BUT this was a move that I really craved because I hated the work and the lifestyle in the City. It wasnt prompted by a partner telling me that I needed to do this. I earn much less now, but the impact has not been especially great as we now live 'up north' and my DH earns enough to plug the gap.
Only quit if it's what you really really want. You sound as though you are actually quite happy with your lot, do YOU want to change things? Don't be pressured into doing this for someone else's benefit.

fairweathercyclist Thu 02-Mar-17 09:20:42

Have you looked at PLC or Lexis? They will pay around £80K and you will work regular hours and possibly some home-working. Also FirstCounsel.

I think Lexis are recruiting for a corporate PSL at the moment. I've not looked at PLC's recruitment site recently but they usually need PSLs (they call them editors) too.

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