rethinking...your first job

Posted by Stephen M. Nipper at April 22, 2005 01:19 AM

The Greatest American Lawyer (whom I met at LexThink) has a very interesting post up on "The Truth About the Billable Hour" which points to a Yale Law School article used to educate law students on billable hours. [some of you reading this may not know that associates in big law firms are often pressured to bill out 1700 to 2300 hours a year...of course every hour you are in the office isn't billable (or at least it shouldn't be) and so the Yale article talks about how hard it is to reach those hourly requirements)].

GAL's article is interesting for two reasons: (1) he talks about the stress on associates to meet their billable hour minimums and (2) he implies the existence of ethical issues incumbent in such a minimum billable hour system. The Yale article breaks it down...that life must suck.

[Disclaimer: I've always worked in small firms that don't have minimum billable hour requirements and thus see the issue from the outside, without experiencing it myself. Maybe this is thus a better "post" for Buchanan or Sorocco to write...maybe they'll add their own comments in separate posts. If not working in such a firm makes me an idiot...flame away, the comments are open.]

I guess this post goes out to the young minds in the audience. I encourage you all to rethink where you take your first IP job. There are many many opportunities out there to work (for considerably lower pay) in small metropolitain areas. Jobs with firms who don't have outrageous billable hour requirements (if any at all), firms who believe in a quality of life, firms in cities where you can actually afford to live in the city (little to no commute)... Oh sure, you'll take a hit, likely a big hit, in starting salary, but consider the benefits? Lower stress, jobs you love, a life outside of the office, more time with your spouse/kids, etc.

I can't imagine a better job in the world than mine....of course it might be fun to work for Underwriters Laboratories (blowing stuff up all day)...but I digress. Rethink about it...consider the possibility of working in small firm, small metro area IP practice.

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Sean Says:

April 22, 2005 10:15 PM

How about some advice for those of us who have just started law school?

Trying to make the transition from a science background has proven to be much more complicated then I imagined.

Anybody out there with some good advice?

Nipper Says:

April 22, 2005 10:22 PM

For starters:

Sean Says:

April 22, 2005 10:43 PM


Actually, I thought the response would be... quit reading blogs and hit the books.

Rumor Says:

April 25, 2005 05:55 PM

Keep reading the blogs, Sean. You might learn more from law and science blogs over your three years than you will from classes. Or to put it another way, there's a lot of detailed stuff they don't teach you in law school. If you keep up with what's going on in the world at the same time, you'll come out of your degree with a lot of valuable, specialized knowledge.

Plus, you'll get a lot of ideas for term and research papers along the way.

Russ Krajec Says:

April 25, 2005 09:21 PM

Sean, don't make it more complicated than it is. You have a huge advantage over all the other kids in law school: you should be able to get a job.

Get out to a local meeting of the IP section of your state bar. That is a much better and more informal place to meet practitioners who are likely to hire you. Try to get good experience with a mentor to learn the business and get a feel for your abilities.

Above all, don't take law school all that seriously.

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