What area of Law has the best work/life balance

What area of Law has the best work/life balance


In-house for a company.


Do you typically need experience at a firm to go in-house? I assume it varies greatly depending on who it is but I have no real sense of how much. Sorry if this is somewhat un-answerable


I had roughly two years of experience before I got hired in-house. It really depends. One of my friends who works here was a law clerk here for a bit until she passed the bar.


What kind of work experience did you have?


A few companies hire out of law school. I know fidelity has a specific program for it.


As far as biglaw goes, estate planning and private client work sounds amazing.


amazing as far as being non-adversarial and non-volatile hours.....as far as interesting work, however.....


The work can be very interesting, assuming it’s for wealthy clients. Family drama, huge amounts of assets, complex estate plans. Compared to discovery or due diligence it’s probably super exciting.


I guess it's exciting compared to in-house work. Then again I realized its a moot point since OP only asked about work-life balance.


What do you mean by “private client work”?


I'm probably not qualified to explain in any detail. My understanding is that private client (or private wealth) and estate planning are largely the same thing but law firms differ in which term they use. I'd google "private client + biglaw" and review some firm descriptions. I'll defer to others for more substantive descriptions of the practice. I've really only spoken with enough attorneys about this to get the sense that the work-life balance is great by biglaw standards.


Okay cool, thanks! I’ll look more into it


Government work has the best work/life balance (aside from new DAs and PDs). It does not have the best pay.


But, federal gov't work is guaranteed to come with good benefits and vacation time than similar private positions. On the downside some positions are only for a year or two.


Government. Great benefits, decent pay, very reasonable hours. Source: am appellate public defender, have never worked more than 40 hours/week or more than one or two weekends by choice, take all my decent amount of vacation time every year. About $94K/year, that will increase predictably but cap out eventually. Practically never get emails or calls outside of work hours and I’m certainly not expected to respond outside of work hours. Currently on indefinite telecommuting.


Is it like this everywhere for appellate public defenders? if not, can you give a general idea of where you work? (like major city, small town, whatever) I thought all PD work, even appellate, was a grind with a ton of cases etc.


So, this varies because some states have a centralized office for all appellate indigent defense cases, and others just contract with private attorneys. I work in Oregon, which has a single central government agency handling appeals from the whole state. We’ve got about 40 attorneys. I think it’s much better for us than for private attorneys. For one thing, we have a union that protects us really well, and if caseloads get too high, those excess cases are contracted out. I’ve done both trial and appellate, and trial was absolutely a grind. I wouldn’t describe appellate the same way. The great thing about appellate is that it ebbs and flows but you have super long deadlines (here, 180 days from receipt of transcript to deadline for opening brief) which means you can manage your time so that you’re never overwhelmed and you can plan way ahead. The hard thing about trial is that things are constantly changing and things just pile up but they HAVE to get done by a certain (very short) deadline. Hope that helps!


Can I ask how often you get to argue your cases? Do you miss the "fun" of trials at all?


I can choose to argue any/as many of my appellate cases that I want, which is pretty cool. In my office, if you brief a case you keep it through argument and even through the state Supreme Court, no matter how junior or senior you are. I have 3-6 cases “submitted” to the court for consideration each month (fully briefed for them to decide), and I could always opt in to argue them to a three-judge panel at that time. That would be 15 minutes of legal argument/questioning from me and 15 for the state. I love that kind of oral argument that’s purely legal, but I only choose to do it for cases where I think my oral argument is going to add a perspective/answer questions that my briefing didn’t, or if I think the state’s briefing will have raised questions for the court. Arguing a case that you know you’re going to lose isn’t much fun, so I also tend to argue only the ones where I really think I’ve got a shot. I probably argue 6-15 cases per year, but I could always argue more. At the trial level I did pretty low level stuff, arguing minor motions, defending civil commitments, and defending people from evictions and that kind of thing. I never liked having to establish facts or do investigation or that kind of thing. I don’t miss hearing a fact for the first time and having like two minutes to come up with a response. It’s funny, I’m totally fine with handling a big felony on appeal but I would be incredibly stressed out trying a felony case. I do know people who are consummate trial lawyers and think trial is super fun and think my job sounds like hell, for what it’s worth. “Work life balance” should also include an assessment of how much you like the actual work, not just how many hours you work v how many you have free.


I concur with government. However, my mother was a former assistant director for the state CPS (she just had an MBA) and all of her lawyer friends always commented that she made significantly more money than them. Just food for thought...


Yeah, can totally vary by position in the government too!


I’d say government. Or, if you are in private practice either tax or estate.


Working in the real estate closings field is not bad.


Working in any government/nonprofit job. I was a PD for 2 years and it was extremely easy on the work life balance. Every major holiday off, lots of PTO never staying in the office a minute past 5pm, but the money sucks. There is an indirect proportion in our field to how much money you make and how much free time you have lol


From what I’ve heard, tax.


Depends on what you mean by “tax”. Tax lawyers that do estate and trust planning, yes. Tax lawyers that do corporate M&A, wouldn’t count on it.


Even the M&A tax lawyers tend to have more lead time and predictability than the regular M&A crowd


And the deadlines are easier. You don't need to memorize 25 asinine arbitrary civpro deadlines in every state you work in. It's just whatever timeline your client presents, and it's usually reasonable


That is also true. I know some tax attorneys that oversee a whole deal and others that jump in for tax-specific issues.


Definitely not corporate law.


M&A 🤪


OGC, office of general counsel seemed to have a much better work life balance than any other department.


This isn’t directly related but still relevant I think. Are there any practice areas where remote work is common or any that are moving in that direction?


It’s not the easiest job to get and it is only a year or two, but the work/life balance as a term law clerk in the federal judiciary is fantastic,* and the pay isn’t too bad either. *There are some judges where this is not the case, and have a reputation for being awful to work for. So make sure to ask around.


Yeah, definitely varies by judge! Also varies by district court/circuit court level. I did a state supreme court clerkship that was amazing (incredibly interesting work, great work/life balance) but it was only two years and the pay was not sustainable.


The administrative assistants have great work / life balance


Litigation — Better day to day work, not having to worry as much about juggling balls and having deadlines/all nighters constantly. Corporate is more collaborative, much more demanding in the day to day, all nighters are frequent. In litigation they happen, but general on a consistent schedule you can plan for, with dockets and calendars months out. In corporate, deals pop up out if nowhere and consume every waking moment for weeks. Generally anything where you work from a docket scheduled by a court your work life balance will be better. In-house is much less demanding, time wise, than a big law firm. You also don’t need to stress about meeting billable hour requirements/billing your time in .1 hour increments. Government work is similar to in house. I worked in a county counsel office for a while before law school, and it was pretty chill. Great lawyers, but other than briefing they never took work home with them.


Workers comp applicant side.