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US law firm - doable?

(13 Posts)
Idreamofsheep Thu 04-Apr-13 23:58:47

Would going to work at a US law firm as a single mother of two young dcs be totally ridiculous? (background is magic circle so I know the score..)

On the downside obviously I would hardly see the dcs Mon-Fri.
On the upside it's the only way I can see that I would be able to afford good childcare on top of all the other expenses of life.

Anyone in a vaguely similar situation??

juneau Sat 06-Apr-13 10:02:09

As long as you go into it with your eyes wide open about the sort of commitment you're making in terms of time and energy, then you do what you have to do to make a good living for your kids. My DB is a lawyer and has only worked for UK firms and they required his life on a plate as much as the US ones, it seems to me, so do you have an alternative? If not, go for it. You can always quit if it's unbearable.

MTSgroupie Sat 06-Apr-13 10:14:37

My friend is a corporate lawyer for an American bank in London. Her (long) hours aren't any different from the friends that work for UK banks.

Murtette Sat 06-Apr-13 21:57:00

Nooooooo. Step away now. Do not do it!!! You won't see your children, ever. Not just Monday - Friday but for weekends as well. I survived 18 months during which I realised:
- one of the female partners (who had school aged children) had three full time nannies as this was the only way to ensure she had 24/7 childcare;
- a senior associate came back from maternity leave when her DS was 6mo and went straight into a completion and didn't see her DS for three days (any sleep she got was on the sofa in reception)
- when I returned from maternity leave, I was told I'd need to spend 4 - 6 months in NY shortly after getting back to get some "face time" with the NY partners
- two English associates went out to NY to help out one week on a deal and came back three months later. During this time, they'd been allowed back to England for one weekend and one of them had his pregnant wife out for another weekend during which he saw her for lunch and that was it
Have I scared you enough yet? If not, I can tell you more. Yes, the money is good but, IME, they really have no respect or concept of the fact that you might have a life outside the office. I'd naively gone there thinking that, as I seemed to work 24/7 anyway, I may as well get the pay rise I'd get from going to a US firm but someone they did squeeze more out of me. I was used to doing all nighters but it was only at the US firm that I did 52 hours solid and then had my commitment and stamina questioned when I asked if I could have a day off in lieu (given I'd been in the office past midnight every day including weekends in the three weeks leading up to the 52 hour stint).
A couple of practical things which made a real difference:
- you were supposed to check your blackberry every 4 hours whilst on holiday. Obviously the partners knew this was policy & it would be commented on if you took more than 4 hours to get back to an email/voicemail.
- you only get 22 days annual leave INCLUDING BANK HOLIDAYS
- your mobile number gets given out rather than your extension number. So you're never away from the office. And partners in NY seemed to have no qualms about calling you on your home phone without any warning. As far as I was concerned, no one called me on my home phone other than my Mum so merrily picked up the phone one Sunday thinking it was her and planning on saying "hi & bye" as I had friends coming for Sunday lunch in an hours time. It was a partner in NY who I'd never spoken to before who had a "quick query"... I got off the phone three hours later having spent over an hour of that time on a conference call with the clients.

MTSgroupie Sat 06-Apr-13 23:07:26

Murtette - For the first two years at her Top 5 UK law firm my friend regularly worked 6 days a week. Often she would take a taxi home at 1am and be back at the office at 8am.

She then jumped ship and joined an American bank. There the hours are more civilised. 8am to 6pm is standard although all nighters and/or weekends do happen a couple of times a quarter. According to her, this is fairly typical at her level which is early 30s at circa £90k pa.

The jobs that you describe sounds like people on the fast track to a partnership. If that is so then they will earn in 5 years what somebody like my friend will earn in 15years which in turn takes me 20 years to earn. IMO putting your life on hold for 5 years and spending the next 15 taking it easy sounds like a fair swap to me.

Anyway, the OP hasn't given any indication what level she is going in at. If like my friend, £90k for 8-6pm Mon to Fri isn't any more demanding than a lot of jobs.

MTSgroupie Sat 06-Apr-13 23:14:02

... My friend's recent experience is at a American bank which isn't the same as working at a law firm so please feel to ignore my comments smile

MTSgroupie Sat 06-Apr-13 23:15:26

... I was merely making the point that you can make a good living without being worked to death.

Murtette Sun 07-Apr-13 00:32:06

In your early 30s in a US firm, you will be looking at £140k plus bonus. So yes, you do get ridiculously well paid and, for some, it is a fair swap It was for me in the time I survived there. I would also say it is for someone in their 20s who is saving for a deposit, wants to travel lots, doesn't have DC etc. Is it a fair swap if you are a single parent to young DC then, no, I don't think it is. Even doing the job your friend does would presumably leave OP with a childcare predicament on the occasions that she needs to do a weekend or an all nighter.

Murtette Sun 07-Apr-13 00:40:21

Just re-read that MTS and apologies if it sounds really aggressive. My concern is simply that OP will think (as I did) that she can't work harder than she currently does and that the extra money will solve all of her problems. The money may solve some of her problems but it then creates the extra one which is that you become dependant on it so can never leave. Because the pay difference is so great, its very hard to go back to any UK firm, even more so if you want to go to a second tier city firm (maybe £90k at a similar level) or provincial firm (maybe £60k) in the hope that you work/life balance will improve. There's also the problem that, these days, there is no fast track to partnership so you could be doing those hours for years.
If your friend knows of any jobs available at her bank, let me know grin

MTSgroupie Sun 07-Apr-13 09:56:09

No worries Murtette.

The husband of a friend of mine had a £150k 6 days a week City job for a number of years. The credit crunch forced him to take a lesser paid and less stressful job. Today he is 'only' on £80k but he (and his family) are much happier.

flowery Sun 07-Apr-13 10:11:02

DH is a partner at a US firm and he doesn't have it any harder than he did when he was a partner at a UK firm tbh. Depends on the firm. He doesn't see a lot of the kids during the week as you'd imagine, but can work from home occasionally and do the school run, catching up in the evening, and if he needs to work weekends he does it in the evening so it doesn't impact them.

I can't imagine it would be easy as a single parent, but then if you're from a magic circle background anyway no big difference.

DH was always averse to the idea of moving to a US firm but was convinced when he was approached about this one after long and detailed conversations with the partners in the UK and the US.

juneau Sun 07-Apr-13 10:34:06

Caveat: if you think it might be anything like Murtette suggests, you'd be mad to join! 8am-6pm and a few later nights should be doable (as long as you have evening childcare cover - do you?), but all-nighters and 52-hours straight at the office? That would be extremely hard as a singleton, let alone as a lone parent.

bicyclebuiltforfour Tue 09-Apr-13 18:40:55

Do you actually want to do the job or is it just the money which attracts you?

If the former, then the sacrifices might be worth it. DH works incredibly long hours (and is very well rewarded for it) but he actually enjoys the work so the sacrifices aren't as great as they might otherwise have been.

If the latter, then run away. Why earn money and then spend it on something you need to allow you to earn it??

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