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Money Only Goes So Far
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lawyers love money

Summary: Too many lawyers focus on the money when looking for a job. There are far more important considerations.

Read the full article here: Money is the Dumbest Thing Any Attorney Should Focus on When Joining a Law Firm


Sure, money is great. It lets us buy things. It provides us with a sense of security. To a certain extent, it even gives us freedom.

But money isn’t everything, and lawyers who overemphasize it often end up unemployed, underemployed, or bouncing between jobs.

See Never Focus on the Money: Focus on Your Higher Purpose and Contribution.

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To maintain a healthy, long-term career as a lawyer you also have to consider factors such as:

  • Liking the people you work with
  • Advancing and not losing your job
  • Maintaining your health and sanity
  • Having a family and a life outside of work
  • Being happy and not feeling threatened all the time
  • Being productive and working on matters you care about

In years bygone, law firms were comprised of like-minded people who protected and advanced each other. Many modern law firms are not like this. It is harder to find supportive environments where your co-workers will give you interesting work, help you generate business, befriend your family members, and be there for you through tough times and market downturns.

That said, good firms still exist, and there are plenty of places where people still support each other. Attorneys who work in environments where they feel valued, protected and safe are happier inside and outside work. They look and feel better, live longer, and have more satisfying careers.

As a general rule, if you join a major law firm in a developed market like San Francisco-Palo Alto, New York City, or Los Angeles, you will probably make more money than your peers—but the odds are good you will not be working there in a few years.

Turnover is high in those types of firms, and if there is a market slowdown many attorneys are pushed out the door. The firm may be so focused on money it doesn’t care about the human toll. In extreme cases, the firm may be so hyper-focused on money it even sweeps its problems under the rug, as was the case with Dewey & LeBoeuf.

In contrast, smaller firms (and large firms in smaller markets) tend to pay less, but have higher retention rates. Attorneys that go to work in Detroit firms, for example, tend to hunker down and plan on staying with the same firm long-term. Consequently there is more loyalty, cooperation, and emphasis on training and mentorship.

While money is important, other factors are more vital at the end of the day. Ultimately it’s crucial to find a safe environment where you can advance as a lawyer and carve out a long-term career. This will help you find happiness and flourish as a person.



See these other articles by Harrison Barnes:

Breaking into a Smaller Market

Harrison Barnes Take on the Tough Question of “What’s the Point?”




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