Read on for the day in the life of a biglaw partner in Chicago, IL
Job Title: Partner
Location: Chicago, IL
Salary/Benefits: Base salary + profit sharing + bonus (which varies). My total compensation was roughly $500,000 last year.
Employer Type: Private law firm
Employer Size: Large – in excess of 1,000 attorneys
Time in Current Position: 11 years with the firm
Highest Level of Education: J.D.
Path to Current Job: I originally wanted to be a reporter, and majored in print journalism during undergrad. I did a number of internships in college and quickly became disenchanted with journalism; at the same time, I loved my political science classes and liked the idea of practicing law. I went straight to law school from undergrad and decided to start my career at a large law firm in a big city (New York) because I thought it would offer me flexibility and opportunities should I choose to leave down the line.
A Typical Day at Work:
I wake up at about 6:30 and check my emails before I get my babes up at 7. I feed the baby and hand her and my toddler off to my nanny at 7:30. I take my dog out, then shower and get dressed and head into the office (pre-pandemic) or sign online from home (pandemic).
If I’m feeling ambitious or well-rested, I’ll get up earlier and squeeze in a Peloton ride before I get the kids up. Now that I’m working from home (we are still pretty much wholly remote as of winter 2021, going into the office on an as-needed basis), I’ll alternatively try to ride the Peloton while on calls where I don’t need to take notes (e.g. working group calls, all partner/all office check ins, etc.) or take brisk walks while catching up with colleagues, talking to law students or marketing/business development, etc.) I’m a very (overly!) active, high-energy person so regular physical activity makes me feel better generally.
My day varies a lot depending on my workload. Pre-pandemic, I traveled quite a bit (at least a week a month) for cross-border investigations, which are a big part of my practice. When you’re conducting an internal investigation on behalf of a client, or coordinating their response to a government investigation, it’s a sensitive situation, and there’s a lot of hand holding and a lot of conversations that need to be done in person—in addition to the logistical impediments that often require travel (e.g. data secrecy laws that don’t permit data to leave the country). When I’m traveling, as a partner, it’s primarily all-day meetings with the client and check-ins with the team (associates, forensic accountants, e-discovery, etc.) on the ground doing document/data review. I also travel domestically to meet with the government and prepare for government meetings or testimony. That kind of preparation with the client is always in person, so it depends where they’re located—we go there! That can be grueling, because those days are extremely long and tensions can be high. I also try to cram in as much as possible while I’m on the road to limit time away from my family. My husband also has a demanding job so we make sure that we’re never both on the road at the same time. Honestly, the synchronizing schedules and balancing competing obligations is like playing jenga.
When I’m not traveling, my schedule is usually peppered with calls and meetings throughout the day. As an associate, most of my day was research, document review and analysis, and project management (although the tasks depended on my matter, what stage of the matter I was in, and my seniority—e.g. as a senior associate it was heavy project management; as a junior associate it was heavy research). As a partner, more of my day is meetings—meetings with the client, meetings relating to business development, meetings with the government, and meetings with the team to understand everything we’re finding in the documents and everything we’re developing (defenses, interview outlines, etc.).
Along with meetings, a lot of my work is reading and writing. I’m reading and reviewing caselaw and research—often compiled by my associates, who cull down a larger set of information for my review. I’m then writing my analysis, whether it be a note to the client, a piece of advocacy (e.g. correspondence with the government), or a memo to file, among other things.
I always, always take 10 minutes around lunch time to check my personal email and (often) read the Daily Mail while eating lunch at my desk! It resets me and focuses me.
I’ll do the occasional business lunch (pre-pandemic) but I’m a bit of a machine during the day so I can get out of the office in time to see my kids. As a working mom of littles, my schedule is a little unusual in that I’ll leave the office/sign offline around 5 (no later than 6 absent a crazy fire drill) and basically have a blackout period for a couple hours where I play with my kids, make/order/eat dinner, catch up with my husband, etc. And luckily, even when I’m stuck on something, my husband starts earlier and finishes earlier than me, so he can step in solo as needed.
We put them to bed at around 7 and at around 8 I often sign back online with my computer on my lap in front of the TV and do what I need to do to call it a day (usually that means catching up on emails, making a to do list for the next day, reviewing my calendar, and finishing anything I didn’t get to that day). Sometimes that’s maintenance and I can unwind; other times I’ll have to finish something substantive so it will be significant work which doesn’t make for much of an evening.
Being a partner has its pros and cons. In some ways, you have more control of your calendar, since no one is putting meetings on your calendar without consulting you (that happened to me quite a bit as an associate). That makes it easier to do what I need to do—easily—for my kids. On the other hand, the need to do business development is constant. Sometimes people forget that law is a service industry and you need to sell yourself. I’m a junior partner so I’m constantly promoting myself internally and externally, and that can be exhausting. Developing business in my practice—white collar and investigations—is a long game. You often don’t have repeat clients, and you need to be front of mind and trusted when something goes very wrong with your clients. I find my work fascinating, but it can also be all-consuming!
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