June 27, 2021

Law Job Considerations Besides Salary

Law Job Considerations Besides Salary | brazenandbrunette.com

Hi I'm Nikki and my toxic trait is blogging once a year and then suddenly a whole bunch :) But for reals, I'm starting to feel less busy in life and I want to get back to blogging because I truly do love it. Today I wanted to write a little post for all your new JD's or even 3L's who are job hunting. When I first started job hunting, I only cared about salary, which I now see was a mistake. I'm lucky that the job I ended up in right after law school just so happens to be a job that I love and I have been at since graduating law school. Now that I'm coming up on my third year at my job, I wanted to share some wisdom with y'all about what else to consider besides the money when looking at a job.

Office culture/The Vibe

I'm starting off here because this is actually why I chose the firm that I'm with but also because I think it's one of the more important things I'll talk to today. My interview was with the firm owner and a senior associate at the firm. The owner was wearing a pink polo shirt and the senior associate asked what I thought of him wearing pink. I was caught off guard and said I thought it looked fine, then the senior associate said, "Really? Because I don't think pink is his color!" The owner started genuinely laughing and turned red and the senior associate said, "See! Look! He's already pink enough!" and they both started laughing at each other. I instantly felt more comfortable and relaxed knowing that the attorneys in this firm had that kind of relationship with one another. And now I'm here getting burned by that same associate attorney weekly, and I talk shit to him all the time.

If you feel comfortable, just go for it. This job was offering much less than I originally wanted to be paid, but I knew that there are a lot of toxic firms out there with terrible work environments and I'd rather be happy with just a little less. On the flip side, if you don't feel comfortable, consider that. Sure, one thing I learned going through recruitment was that what you're shown isn't always what it's like, but trust your gut. 


Okay now less fun, more adulting. So, I walked out of the above-mentioned interview, and on the way to my car I saw I had another interview offer with another law firm that paid a little more. I called my sister conflicted because I loved the firm I had just interviewed with, and now I had this seemingly-better job offer. But there was a catch-- this other job couldn't offer any benefits. My sister is an office manager so she really understands employee benefits and wisely told me that health insurance is costly so while this job may pay more technically, I'd probably end up with less money at the end of the month after paying for personal health insurance. 

She was right! I've since learned that it's a lot easier to ask for and to receive a raise than it is to ask for and receive health insurance. And there's more benefits than just that! My job actually covers my insurance 100% for me and my family, meaning that 0% of my paycheck is reduced to pay for my health insurance, and when Ryan and I got married, I could add him to our insurance for free. Ryan was able to negotiate that with his job and have them increase his take-home pay for 50% of what they used to pay for his health insurance so it was a win-win. I also get 401(k) matching. YOU WANT 401K MATCHING (or a similar program like 403(b)).

Mentors and Growth

One of my law school friends told me once about how she hated her job. Everyone there had been there for forever and no one really cared about her. She felt that no one took the time to teach her anything, but everyone was quick to point out her mistakes (with no constructive criticism on how to do better next time). You can imagine how long it took her to start considering other job opportunities. Asking about mentor opportunities in an interview is great because it gives you a sense of the firm's hierarchy and shows your eagerness to learn.

Another big tip is look into areas for growth. What is this firm's structure like? I talked with a girl that my job was considering and I asked her why she wanted to leave her job, because it paid over double what our attorneys made. She straight up told me because she was stuck at her job. The firm only allowed for raises or promotions when an attorney above you left, and no one had left that job in over 15 years. That is great for the firm overall, but that meant that no matter how great she did, she wouldn't be compensated unless someone quit, retired, was fired, or died. That can a terrible position where you're stuck hoping for someone's downfall just so you can finally get some recognition. 

Paid time off

I learned this tip from one of my mentors from my externship and it is so smart! This is another negotiating tip that benefits you and costs your company very little. Most jobs have a policy that you have to work there for so long to earn PTO or you only start out with so much PTO, but sometimes that can be a flexible policy! 

My mentor of my externship revealed to me that before accepting her job, she asked for an extra half-week of PTO, and asked that her PTO be available immediately. She didn't actually need this time off, but her salary was something the company was already paying for, and why not enjoy a day off sooner rather than later? It's also great to have as a backup just in case something happens in the first few months of your job to prevent you from having to take unpaid leave. This also is a good time to negotiate paid maternity/paternity leave for future you. 

Bar costs

Fun fact: you have to pay bar dues. And CLE's cost money. This is something very easy to inquire about, because it's common for firms to pay for these. That may not sound like much, but when you're a baby lawyer with your student loans drying out, that couple hundred bucks to get you squared away with the bar really help!  This is especially true once you start calculating that bar dues and CLE's are annual expenses that could easily add up for you.

My job also sends me to a CLE conference on the area of law that I work in, which saves me gas and hotel for a 3-day trip. If you can save money, why not? 

The work load

When I first started my job, I was talking with a coworker about why he left his old job for this one. He told me that his old job used to have ridiculously long hours and tasks were always being dropped on his desk last minute. Not only did he feel that he lived at his job, he also felt that he could never take a vacation because there was always something new piling up. Yes, we all know that big-paying law jobs require a shit ton of hours. You just have to consider what is worth it to you. 


You may remember how I shadowed a judge the summer after my 1L year. What you may not remember is that I had to pay $3 for parking every day I was with the judge. That adds up real fast! I actually learned in my negotiations class that paid, covered parking can be a negotiation tactic. A hiring attorney might have a hard time justifying why newly-licensed you should be paid as much as their attorney who has been there for a year, but it's easier to justify why you should have a parking spot (well, this one asked and the other didn't). It can save you a lot of money over time and is really easy for your job to accommodate for little-to-nothing to them. 

Location, location, location

If this job is in another city, will they pay for relocation costs? What about a deposit on your apartment? Also, just consider the location in general. How many hours of your life will you spend in traffic? How early will you have to wake up to get there on time, and how late will you get home each evening?

This was also a big thing when Ryan and I were house hunting, because our offices are over an hour away in opposite directions from one another. Any house that was close to one job was far away from another. This means we're now both 30-45 minutes away from our job. Oh, and we both have to pay tolls every day. These things add up, so consider them. 

Little things

Once you take a job, don't be shy. My job actually paid for the frames for my diploma! Again, doesn't sound like much but saving you a couple hundred bucks really helps out when you're just starting out as an adult. 

My job also pays for my phone plan! That got me a new phone because I was a new line added to the plan, and saves me hundreds of dollars each year! Sure, if I leave I'll have to find something new, but that's still worth it to me. 

Oh, and don't forget about student loan reimbursement! Your job can pay towards your debt, and usually get a tax break while they're at it. Student loans are becoming more and more common, so don't feel shy asking about what they offer to help with law school debt. 

Okay, I'm out of wine and out of ideas lol! Really, I just wanted to open y'alls eyes to the jobs you'll be looking at. I say this because I did take a lower-paying job that had a helluva lot of other benefits that I've greatly enjoyed. And I got these benefits and then a raise so I ended up getting the salary I originally wanted, plus some! I am truly truly happy I looked at more than just the pay when I chose my job, so I want y'all to consider that too! 

June 20, 2021

Why I Chose My Area of The Law + Tips for Baby Lawyers

Why I Chose My Area of The Law + Tips for Baby Lawyers | brazenandbrunette.com

Hellooooo! It's been a hot minute, so thank you to anyone who is actually still reading this. I'm currently procrastinating work + laundry so I remembered that I have this blog. I've been meaning for over a year to talk about being a lawyer but have been so busy that I haven't sat down to write this until today :) 

Let me take you down the twisted path of how I ended up in my area of law. The too long; didn't read version is trust God's plan. To backtrack, I spent my entire last semester of law school working with the in-house counsel of Interstate Batteries in Dallas. I loved it and left wanting nothing less than working in-house counsel, even though I knew these jobs were very selective and competitive. Then I took the Bar Exam and honestly I felt lost after the Bar. I spent all August and September after the Bar feeling lost and unmotivated and only survived off of my remaining law school loan money and the generosity of Ryan. I of ended up working for my now-fiancé's mom as her assistant because she's the CEO of her own company in October. This job was a huge wake up for me because, even though I didn't have my bar results yet, I knew I wanted to be doing something with the law. 

So I started job hunting (hi, procrastination!) and applying to in-house jobs with no response, then I applied to other corporate jobs with no response, and then I broadened my applications. I can still remember sitting on our balcony with a glass of wine and crying to Ryan as I realized I was at a fork in the road for my career. I had seen the job posting for a workers' comp attorney and honestly I wasn't very on board. I knew if I applied for and/or took this job, I was sabotaging my chances of going in-house. And I felt like workers' comp felt as unglamorous and low-life as it gets like Saul from Better Call Saul. I really didn't want to apply for the job but Ryan talked it through with me and we decided any job is better than no job and to just apply.

After I got my bar results back, I sent a follow-up email to everywhere I had applied to and mentioned that I would now be a licensed lawyer. My current boss called my like that next day for a phone interview, and then we scheduled an in-person interview for the end of that week. To be transparent, it was the first firm that called me back. It was a small 7-laywer firm that only handled the non-sexy workers' comp. But during my interview, I just felt so at home and at ease! I instantly loved it and when they offered me a job on the spot, I tried to stall and told them I needed to think about it before committing so I didn't seem desperate. 

As luck would have it, as I was leaving the interview I got an email from another law firm that was an area of the law closer to in-house counsel that invited me to interview but warned that they couldn't offer health insurance, 401k, or other benefits at the time. I called my sister and she wisely advised me to not bother with a firm that couldn't offer benefits. I had lunch with Ryan who wisely advised me to take a job if I felt so excited about it. So, later that same day I officially became a workers' comp attorney.

I've been at my firm for over 2 years now, and I fully intend to stay here for as long as possible. My gut instinct was right  my boss provides guidance and feedback but isn't harsh and we actually really get along; each and every attorney above me has acted as a mentor and has helped me be a better lawyer and more successful in my own firm; one attorney specifically took me aside and told me what to do to get a raise and then championed for me to get that raise; I've been given opportunities to gain new experience without being thrown into something unprepared; and I've already doubled my starting salary. 

Constantly, I think back on that night with my wine and tears and Ryan and am so glad that I didn't let my pride and idea of a "dream lawyer job" prevent me from applying to my firm. My job is stressful, as all lawyer jobs are (which is something you really can't understand until you have clients of your own), but I am very grateful with where I ended up and I am lucky to say I love my job. I still talk to my law school friends so I've heard the stories of the ones who change jobs every 6 months because they can't find a job they like, or the ones who has a boss/company culture that could care less about you or your success, or the ones who just hate their jobs but they need the money. I'm just very happy in the circumstances that I'm in.

So, this whole life story and humble brag can now lead to lessons I would tell new law school grad Nikki.
  1. Don't box yourself in to one area of the law, you never know what area you might like more.
  2. Benefits are the same as money. If a job can't give you health insurance, retirement, etcetera, remember that this is something YOU will have to pay. So the salary they're offering will actually be much less because you'll have to be paying a lot out of pocket.
  3. If you're interested in a job, let them know. My boss actually told me that his excitement for me actually decreased when I didn't accept the job immediately because it made him feel like I wasn't fully committed. 
  4. Be humble. Looking back on it, it was VERY arrogant of unlicensed and inexperienced Nikki to turn her nose down at the thought of workers' comp. 
  5. Be open minded. I obviously had pre-conceived notions about what law I did and didn't want to do, but now I absolutely love the area of the law that I do. It's very convenient that my worst subject in law school (evidence) isn't really even used in my area of the law. And I originally wanted to be a doctor, and now all I really do is read medical records for a living. Plus, I obviously really like helping people and now that is the majority of my job! You never know what random job will end up being perfectly designed for you. 
  6. Do what makes you happy. Money is nice, but talking to my friends who hate their jobs makes it very easy to comprehend that there is no price for your mental wellbeing. If you like a job, don't worry about the money and instead choose your happiness. Again, I fully expected my job to be low paying for life, and now I make six figures.