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   Salary Ceiling/Hours Worked
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ucb
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Salary Ceiling/Hours Worked
« on: Jul 21st, 2007, 9:48am »
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Hi everyone,
 
I have a MSCS from a top-tier school and I'm currently being recruited by a law firm in Boston to join their technical specialist program where they will pay for my law school.
 
However, I also have a competitive (six figure, with signing bonus, and $30K in stock in a fortune 500 company) offer to do some CS work.  
 
Right now the CS work seems more appealing to me. I won't have to go to law school, I know what I'm getting myself into, and I won't have to work 50+ hours per week every week.
 
I just want to make sure I'm not being short-sighted. I don't want to look back 10 years from now and wish I pursued the law career. Here are the questions that I believe will make or break my decision:
 
How much does a partner make at a medium sized patent law firm? Is it ~$200K? ~500K? I really have no idea. I don't think I would take the risk of hating my job if the MOST I could possibly make is $200K.
 
How many hours do you estimate someone has to work to have 1800 billable hours per year?
 
I need to make a decision within the next couple of days so I thank you for your insight in advance!
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still_studying
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Re: Salary Ceiling/Hours Worked
« Reply #1 on: Jul 21st, 2007, 2:25pm »
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on Jul 21st, 2007, 9:48am, ucb wrote:
Right now the CS work seems more appealing to me. I won't have to go to law school, I know what I'm getting myself into, and I won't have to work 50+ hours per week every week.

You're sorta right.  Last software engineering job I had, they worked me 100+ hours per week.  Not joking.
 
If you have an employer who is really planning to pay you a six-figure salary to work a 40-hour week, you've either found a truly rare position or someone in corporate HR is on crack.  My bet is, you'll be working around the clock stomping out forest fires with your bare feet, starting from around your third day and ending on the day that you die.  Sorry, but that's my experience in the trenches.  Prove me wrong!
 
Hey, you know why ducks have flat feet?  To stomp out forest fires.
 
You know why elephants have flat feet?  To stomp out flaming ducks.
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plex
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Re: Salary Ceiling/Hours Worked
« Reply #2 on: Jul 21st, 2007, 3:50pm »
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The money and hours aside, it also has to do with what you will enjoy doing.  
 
Do you dislike writing/reading?
Do you prefer programming most/all of your time?
Do you write programs as a hobby?
 
Unless a miracle has occurred, you will definitely be working 50 hours or more at your position, engineers/programmers making  a good bit less than what you are being offered often work at least 50 hours, I would not be surprised if it is a lot more than 50.
« Last Edit: Jul 21st, 2007, 3:51pm by plex » IP Logged
ucb
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Re: Salary Ceiling/Hours Worked
« Reply #3 on: Jul 21st, 2007, 4:36pm »
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Hi,
 
Thanks for your input. I do think that I will sometimes work 40+ hours, but that won't be the norm. This is a great company where even the CEO takes time for family during the week. I know there are programming jobs that work you 100+ hours per week, but I avoid them! I should also mention that the reason why I have such a high salary is because I have experience in a specialized field which this company is looking for, plus a MS from a top school.  
 
To answer your questions, I do enjoy writing, but I don't think I would like writing/reading patents. I've checked out some online and the legalese puts me to sleep. It might as well be in a different language! I'm hoping (assuming?) that there is a method to reading/writing the patents it gets easier...
 
Also, I do enjoy programming, but I don't love it as much as many of my peers which is why I started looking into patent law. I do programming jobs on the side, but only for the money...I would never program just for the fun of it.
 
How much time do you think a lawyer would have to work to bill 1800 hours per year, assuming they take 3-4 weeks of vacation?
 
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MrSnuggles
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Re: Salary Ceiling/Hours Worked
« Reply #4 on: Jul 21st, 2007, 4:47pm »
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If you want to bill 1800 hours and also have 3-4 weeks of vacation, the math is pretty simple.
 
1800 hours / 11 months = 163.64 hours per month
1800 hours / 48 weeks = 42.86 hours per week
 
The only variable, and it's a biggie, is how "efficient" you are.  You will not be able to attend work and bill for every hour attended.  There's overhead (continuing legal education, meetings with potential clients, administrative duties, internal meetings, client meetings that you don't bill for, etc).  In a given day, I figure I bill about 6 for every 8 that I work - roughly.  Some days are better, some days are worse.
 
There's also the question of whether you have work to keep you busy.  Although it's not a problem most of the time, there are some situations (e.g., around Christmas when all the inventors are gone) that are slow.
 
To bill 1800 hours, you can figure on working about 20% over that, so around 2160.  So that comes out to 48 hours a week on average.
 
My firm has a 1700 hour biling goal, but it only counts hours actually billed to the client toward that goal.  So, if you're over budget, you're working for free -- you don't get credit toward your goal, but you still have to get the work done.  I tend to be at work from 830AM to 630PM daily and most weekends.  I usually take a few days off around Christmas and Easter, and maybe a few at the end of the billing year, but that's about it.
 
For your first few years, it may be difficult to (1) get enough hours in to be able to take 3-4 weeks vacation and/or (2) clear your docket for a contiguous 3-4 weeks, or even 3-4 days...
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