Document Type





legal education, law practice, legal profession, legal writing and research


Law | Legal Education | Legal Profession | Legal Writing and Research


Law schools are designed to teach students about the doctrine of law and to help them prepare their skills to practice law. There are some practical aspects of law practice, though, that are rarely if ever discussed in law school. Perhaps this is because of an assumption that law firms will make these issues clear to the students they hire as associates, or perhaps it is because of a belief that such information has no place in the curriculum of an academic institution.

Whatever the reason, this is information law students should have as they begin to think about where they want to practice law and what expectations they have of their employers and what expectations their employers will have of them, especially if they work at large law firms in large cities. This essay seeks to lay out some of this information as clearly as possible.

The essay explores some uncomfortable topics, like how much money junior associates can really expect to have at their disposal after taxes, rent, and other expenses are accounted for, and it considers how much those associates cost their law firms. The essay also considers the reality and myth of the billable hour and how much time junior associates will have to spend at work in order to bill the minimum time expected by law firms these days. Finally, the essay considers how much time associates might have to themselves, away from work, if they commit to a large firm large city practice.

All of this might make for difficult reading, but those students planning to start their careers in firms that pay the highest starting salaries in the profession should know the things this essay discusses before they commit themselves to the life of a large firm associate. The essay does not suggest that this is a bad decision. To the contrary, many associates each year embrace their lives enthusiastically. But the essay does suggest that the decision to practice in large firms should be taken knowingly and intelligently, and it seeks to give students at least some of the information they need in order to make those decisions.