Jump to content
maybemaybe

Government and in-house lawyers lifestyle

Recommended Posts

Hi all! I'm currently an undergraduate student considering law school. At first I was scared about the long brutal hours that a lot of lawyers put in but now I've realized that a lot of jobs are like that when one is first starting out (medicine, business consulting, engineering). I am fine with working longer weeks (50-60) in the first 2-4 years on my career but most likely not longer than that. I do value my personal time. I can't imagine putting in a ton of hours my whole life, coming home at 10pm, and giving up my weekends. I want to ultimately end up in a position that gives me a good work life balance and a decent income (eventually mid 100k). The two law fields that provide good work life balance are government and in house law. I asked on reddit about life style for government lawyers and inhouse lawyers and got mixed responses. Some said they regularly put in 60 hours a week while others talked about a normal 40 hour week more of the time. One person said they worked on average 35 hours working in house and making a nice income. I found an income chart of BC legal counsels and they averaged a 35 hour work week based on their hourly rate. If I went into government, I'd most likely work with the provincial government (Alberta) or my municipal government (Edmonton). I am also interested in house but from my understanding, one has to work some years at a big firm until they reach that point.

 

For those of you who are working in government (federal, provincial, municipal) or in house, whether as a lawyer or not, what is your  work life balance like?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

From what I understand re: in-house, most companies who are looking for an in-house lawyer want to hire someone who has experience at a large corporate law firm. There are very few opportunities to go in-house right out of law school. For this career path, you'd have to land a job at a large corporate firm (very competitive, sought after positions), work your ass off for 3-5 years (more than 60 hours, working most weekends), then leverage that experience to go in-house.

For government work, those are also highly sought after positions. Various government departments recruit law students, but the recruit is highly competitive.

The common advice is to assume you're going to be an average law student. What happens if you can't secure a government job or an in-house job out of law school? Would you be okay with working in something totally different, like family or personal injury?

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't have anything to add to the discussion wrt law, but my friends who recently graduated from engineering and are now working jobs keep complaining that they have nothing to do. They're also earning the same - if not much more - than what a JD grad fresh out of law school would be earning. 

If you're looking for a career that pays well with minimal work, there are definitely easier paths. As someone who left one of the fields you listed above in favour of law school, - granted, I won't be starting till September - really think about what you'd be okay with doing for hours on end. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
22 minutes ago, canuckfanatic said:

From what I understand re: in-house, most companies who are looking for an in-house lawyer want to hire someone who has experience at a large corporate law firm. There are very few opportunities to go in-house right out of law school. For this career path, you'd have to land a job at a large corporate firm (very competitive, sought after positions), work your ass off for 3-5 years (more than 60 hours, working most weekends), then leverage that experience to go in-house.

For government work, those are also highly sought after positions. Various government departments recruit law students, but the recruit is highly competitive.

The common advice is to assume you're going to be an average law student. What happens if you can't secure a government job or an in-house job out of law school? Would you be okay with working in something totally different, like family or personal injury?

Thats a good point. I feel  I would make a good lawyer but personally I don't know if I would be willing to work in other areas of law my whole life simply because I do want work life balance later on. So if I did go to law school, I would most likely have my sights set on obtaining a government position

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 minutes ago, samii said:

I don't have anything to add to the discussion wrt law, but my friends who recently graduated from engineering and are now working jobs keep complaining that they have nothing to do. They're also earning the same - if not much more - than what a JD grad fresh out of law school would be earning. 

If you're looking for a career that pays well with minimal work, there are definitely easier paths. As someone who left one of the fields you listed above in favour of law school, - granted, I won't be starting till September - really think about what you'd be okay with doing for hours on end. 

True engineers earn more than fresh lawyers in articling but it seems like year 1 lawyers working for provincial governments make around 80-90k a year and also have other benefits. An engineer usually tops out at around 120-130k unless they are in software and unless they take a management role that comes with more work and responsibilities

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

“Mid 100k” is in the top 5% of Canadian incomes and unattainable for most people. You’re typically going to have to work for that, no matter what you do. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, maybemaybe said:

True engineers earn more than fresh lawyers in articling but it seems like year 1 lawyers working for provincial governments make around 80-90k a year and also have other benefits. An engineer usually tops out at around 120-130k unless they are in software and unless they take a management role that comes with more work and responsibilities

Topping out at 110-130k with a good work life balance sounds good to me haha. And engineers (as well as other professions) can get pretty good benefits with OT pay.. definitely not as good as government benefits I'm sure but better than large corporate law firms. If I was better at math maybe I could have gone that route lol

You can also go into government by doing an MPP for a lot cheaper and scrape a year off school.

But others on here are right, any management position no matter the career will be long long hours. My best friend is a senior manager in a consumer good company and makes 150k but also works 60-70 hour weeks consistently with a ton of stress and weekend work... especially when working on the budget or presentating to the VPs.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you do the five years at a big firm, then jump you can top out at a lot higher than $130K for jobs with pretty decent work life balance.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just wondering how competitive government jobs are - summer and articling positions especially. What sort of grades do you need? I have a B+ average. Also, once you get to the interview process, I've heard it becomes quite difficult because government interviews are highly specific and need a lot of preparation. 

Edited by capitalttruth
  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 minutes ago, capitalttruth said:

Just wondering how competitive government jobs, summer and articling positions especially. What sort of grades do you need? Also, once you get to the interview process, I've heard it becomes quite difficult because government interviews are highly specific and need a lot of preparation. 

I found them easier than non government interviews. My grades were good but not medalist or anything. I had a mix of both (and I've had full service firm offers and government offers).

Government you at least have a question to answer. I found this makes it much easier to sell yourself. With private firms, it's hard to sell yourself without coming across as a keener. Flip side is if you don't manage to sell yourself, then you're also out. So I found it more difficult to "stand out". Even though conversationally they're a lot of fun and easy to do.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The stereotype or myth that gov't lawyers don't work long is not honestly not really fair to them. Government lawyers at the bigger ministries can find themselves touching 50-60 hour weeks for consecutive months, especially if there's a near-term political mandate. If there are stakeholders that are on other timezones, they may even have to work at weird hours. 

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What type of government legal roles are we discussing? 
 

If you’re a trial lawyer, you’re going to work some long and somewhat irregular hours at times. Government or not. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Just now, QuincyWagstaff said:

What type of government legal roles are we discussing? 
 

If you’re a trial lawyer, you’re going to work some long and somewhat irregular hours at times. Government or not. 

I am mostly interested in working with provincial or municipal governments as a solicitor. Roles where you provide legal advice, help with decision making, write contracts and stuff. I am not super interested in being an LP for the federal government. I'm also not interested in litigation or criminal law. From what I've seen government lawyers make pretty good pay starting around 80k and up to 160k plus benefits. On top of that, the work seems really interesting and something I see myself doing as a future career. However, from talking to others, its hard to gauge what kind of hours they work. Some people I've talked to work around 50-60 hours while others said it was a typical 40 hour week with the occasional stressful week thrown in. I'm a girl and in the future, I can see myself needing to work a job with work life balance. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think I can shed some insight into what (some) lifestyles look in Alberta doing in house/government work. 

I did a summer stint with the Alberta government. Most of the lawyers arrived at 8 and left around 4-5. They took lunches, chatted quite a bit, would leave early to go for drinks every now and then, etc. But things do get very busy for them depending on what is going on. For example, if there's a trial or a big case they work a lot of overtime. Sometimes a ministry is also asking for a work product ASAP and to comply you have to stay late. Generally though, I would say their lifestyles have a lot more balance than private practice, but their jobs aren't always limited to regular business hours. It's also a lot harder to be pulling those 60 hour work weeks like your private practice friends when your salary is lower. They start around $90 and top out around $185 at the end of your career. I think there's been raise freezes though...

Another lawyer I know works in house at a large corporation and said she makes $130k and does 40 hours a week. She's admittedly not career motivated and while there are plenty of opportunities for her to work harder or do overtime, she declines them. She doesn't get a bonus or a raise and won't be promoted at all, but she's fine with it. 

Another lawyer I know works in house at a small corporation and makes $110k. Hopes to eventually go to around $140 over time. Work hours are max 40 a week with a daily lunch. There's also limited room for advancement though, including bonuses, but the pay off is guaranteed work-life balance.

I think if you want in house, generally you'll be able to find an in house job that allows you to work as much as you want. Some of them though are hard to get and require you to put in a few years in private practice to be competitive. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@maybemaybe

I don’t personally have experience with solicitor work, so I’ll leave that to others. 
 

However,  if working 35-40 hours per week is important to you, I would consider another profession. You very rarely find that in any lawyer job, and when you do, it’s most often many years into your career. Many women leave in the first 5 years, long before they would be able to secure such a position. 

Edited by QuincyWagstaff
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
8 minutes ago, SS624 said:

I think I can shed some insight into what (some) lifestyles look in Alberta doing in house/government work. 

I did a summer stint with the Alberta government. Most of the lawyers arrived at 8 and left around 4-5. They took lunches, chatted quite a bit, would leave early to go for drinks every now and then, etc. But things do get very busy for them depending on what is going on. For example, if there's a trial or a big case they work a lot of overtime. Sometimes a ministry is also asking for a work product ASAP and to comply you have to stay late. Generally though, I would say their lifestyles have a lot more balance than private practice, but their jobs aren't always limited to regular business hours. It's also a lot harder to be pulling those 60 hour work weeks like your private practice friends when your salary is lower. They start around $90 and top out around $185 at the end of your career. I think there's been raise freezes though...

Another lawyer I know works in house at a large corporation and said she makes $130k and does 40 hours a week. She's admittedly not career motivated and while there are plenty of opportunities for her to work harder or do overtime, she declines them. She doesn't get a bonus or a raise and won't be promoted at all, but she's fine with it. 

Another lawyer I know works in house at a small corporation and makes $110k. Hopes to eventually go to around $140 over time. Work hours are max 40 a week with a daily lunch. There's also limited room for advancement though, including bonuses, but the pay off is guaranteed work-life balance.

I think if you want in house, generally you'll be able to find an in house job that allows you to work as much as you want. Some of them though are hard to get and require you to put in a few years in private practice to be competitive. 

thank you, for the 2 in house people you know, what was their career path to their roles?

 

also what kind of work did the government lawyers work on?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 minutes ago, maybemaybe said:

thank you, for the 2 in house people you know, what was their career path to their roles?

 

also what kind of work did the government lawyers work on?

I'm pretty sure that both started out in private practice and then left after a few years. I know a ton of other lawyers in in-house positions, I just don't know their salaries so haven't mentioned them. Most people seem to start off in private practice. It makes sense, since organizations want their hires to have some experience since often in house roles can be relatively independent. 

Government was everything - civil litigation, environment, social services. I think civil litigation was likely the busiest. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 minutes ago, SS624 said:

I'm pretty sure that both started out in private practice and then left after a few years. I know a ton of other lawyers in in-house positions, I just don't know their salaries so haven't mentioned them. Most people seem to start off in private practice. It makes sense, since organizations want their hires to have some experience since often in house roles can be relatively independent. 

Government was everything - civil litigation, environment, social services. I think civil litigation was likely the busiest. 

do you think a government lawyer could make a transition to in house as well? from what ive seen, some work on the commerical side of things as well which can be useful for in house work. I'd be interested in that kind of role working on commercial or labour law or working in banking law.

 

also, are in house positions concentrated in only certain places in canada? for example in places like vancouver and toronto where there are larger companies 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
19 minutes ago, QuincyWagstaff said:

@maybemaybe

I don’t personally have experience with solicitor work, so I’ll leave that to others. 
 

However,  if working 35-40 hours per week is important to you, I would consider another profession. You very rarely find that in any lawyer job, and when you do, it’s most often many years into your career. Many women leave in the first 5 years, long before they would be able to secure such a position. 

I'm okay with working longer hours when I start out and probably transition to a 40-50 hour work week as time progresses. From the responses I've gotten so far, this seems reasonable for in house positions, what do you think?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, samii said:

I don't have anything to add to the discussion wrt law, but my friends who recently graduated from engineering and are now working jobs keep complaining that they have nothing to do. They're also earning the same - if not much more - than what a JD grad fresh out of law school would be earning. 

If you're looking for a career that pays well with minimal work, there are definitely easier paths. As someone who left one of the fields you listed above in favour of law school, - granted, I won't be starting till September - really think about what you'd be okay with doing for hours on end. 

curious, what field are you leaving to become a lawyer and why?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...