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How was that career change? Worthwhile (from a financial, job security, level of responsibility etc sense)?



I went the opposite way. Big law to programming. I make about the same (maybe slightly less but not if you account for unreimbursed business expenses like buying suits and similar hidden costs of employment) but for less work and I'm way happier. Many, possibly most, lawyers are miserable and hate their work. It's long hours and high stress, both because the stakes are usually high and you are frequently dealing with open interpersonal conflict/adversarial relationships. Plus no chance for equity, so you're an hourly worker for life.


I went this way as well: Worked in big law, always enjoyed coding on the side, and went all in with coding to build an MVP for a document collaboration platform. It is an experience I wouldn't want to miss.

For anyone else who is thinking about switching careers, this is how I started: At some point during my career as a lawyer I started collecting ideas for a better, more effective way to work as a lawyer. Software could help a lot while doing many administrative tasks and would allow a lawyer to focus on what creates value - giving legal advice, thinking through tough legal problems, negotiating a great outcome for the client... Yet a lot of enterprise software is too hard to grasp, and many lawyers just stick with the old way, doing most things manually (by themselves or have it done by their assistants).

So I started building one MVP, pivoted and now am building a "GitHub for Word". Steep learning curve as a startup founder and well worth giving it a try. If you are interested, check out my project Jules: https://julesdocs.com


> no chance for equity

What about as a partner?


Law firms are usually organized as LLPs, LLCs, or PCs these days, but bottom line that means ownership shares can't be freely transferred. You can't sell your stake, so there's no opportunity for a major liquidity event like you might experience as an employee compensated in stock at a corporation when the stock increases in value dramatically and you sell.

Worse yet, lawyers have to keep working to continue to receive equity compensation in the overwhelming majority of cases. So you can't retire and continue to make money from your equity stake. You can't even really cut back on the crazy hours. This answer covers it pretty thoroughly: https://www.quora.com/Do-partners-in-law-firms-keep-a-share-...


I thought Big Law pays $200k+? Meaning that the typical programmer would be making considerably less, or is that not the case?


Someone with the drive and intelligence to make it in big law (i.e. a far above average lawyer) is probably not going to be making the salary of an average programmer.


Depends on the lawyer and the programmer. I was on the lower end of big law and I'm on the upper end of programming.


Biglaw pays 200k in high CoL areas where Big-N tech workers start out at 200k.


I work in tech in a high CoL area, and sure senior engineers and eng managers are making 200k+ total comp. SWEs with <5 years of experience are not starting out over 200k.


There is overlap in terms of required aptitude, but otherwise they’re completely different jobs, so it’s odd to ask whether the change is “worthwhile.” Do you like cooperation and building things? You probably won’t like being a lawyer. Do you like conflict and tactical maneuvering? You might enjoy being a lawyer. You can make a good living doing either.


I did it too. It has been successful for me but inherent conservatism of the legal profession can be wearing over time.




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