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(Message started by: ucb on Jul 21st, 2007, 9:48am)

Title: Salary Ceiling/Hours Worked
Post by ucb on Jul 21st, 2007, 9:48am
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!

Title: Re: Salary Ceiling/Hours Worked
Post by still_studying on Jul 21st, 2007, 2:25pm

on 07/21/07 at 09:48:55, 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.

Title: Re: Salary Ceiling/Hours Worked
Post by plex on Jul 21st, 2007, 3:50pm
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.

Title: Re: Salary Ceiling/Hours Worked
Post by ucb on Jul 21st, 2007, 4:36pm
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?


Title: Re: Salary Ceiling/Hours Worked
Post by MrSnuggles on Jul 21st, 2007, 4:47pm
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...

Title: Re: Salary Ceiling/Hours Worked
Post by ucb on Jul 21st, 2007, 6:48pm
Thanks for the insight, Mr. Snuggles. That was exactly what I was looking for.

Now on to my other question: how much could I expect to make if I made partner at a medium sized law firm?

Their initial offer to me (keep in mind that I haven't even started law school) is $100K. I've also been led to believe that once I passed the bar my income would be somewhere around $200K. I have to think that becoming a partner would make this jump another $1-200K. Am I way off here?

Title: Re: Salary Ceiling/Hours Worked
Post by MrSnuggles on Jul 21st, 2007, 6:56pm
Partnership income depends on many factors, including geographic location, type of firm, number of partners, partnership structure, etc.

In general, in the Midwest, I would say that mid-six figures is a good estimate with some making more (e.g., in a GP firm or a lit/prosecution firm) and some making less (e.g., solo, junior partner).  For east or west coast, I don't know.  But probably another 200-500k over Midwest firms.

It's a very hard question to answer because (1) most firms don't publish average partner incomes and (2) it so variable, whereas associate salaries follow fairly well-defined trends and structure.

Title: Re: Salary Ceiling/Hours Worked
Post by pat_eng on Jul 22nd, 2007, 11:03pm
I know my ex-boss, partner at a small prep and pros only shop in the midwest, made 250K last year.  I would imaging that amount on the east coast at a midsized firm to be much higher.

He also worked more than 12 hours a day though.

Title: Re: Salary Ceiling/Hours Worked
Post by brutalhonesty on Jul 23rd, 2007, 9:29pm
I would stick with your CS offer: six figures, signing bonus, and 30k in stock options.  You are crazy to throw that away for law school.

Equity partner salaries will blow yours out of the water (some of these guys are making 400-600k a year); however, based on your posts, I really don't think you are the type-a work-a-holic that would become a partner.  No offense intended, just an observation.

Title: Re: Salary Ceiling/Hours Worked
Post by Patent Prosecutor on Jul 31st, 2007, 1:09pm
I would also consider what your salary would be at the Fortune 500 company in about five years. Something seems a bit fishy about the six figure offer from the Fortune 500 company. I have a feeling that your salary won't go too much beyond that over the years whereas at the law firm your salary will be consistently increasing anywhere from $5-$25K a year. Some firms also let you work part time while in law school and count this time toward seniority. I know someone (also in Boston) who graduated from law school and started full time at the firm as a 3rd year associate. That's a lot of cash (~190K) plus the opportunity to make partner in about 4-5 years.

Title: Re: Salary Ceiling/Hours Worked
Post by IP hot shot on Aug 1st, 2007, 9:00am
I have many friend in the CS or EEs, ALL making 6 figures (100,000 - 170,000) and with only 5 - 10 years experience.  None of tem ever work over and average of 42 hours a week.  The people I know really well in IP law area all work 50-60+ hours.

Your best advise.  Take the CS job, try it out for a few years, and if you decide to go to IP then make the move.  You would be better off with a few years in the industry anyway.

Title: Re: Salary Ceiling/Hours Worked
Post by Wiscagent on Aug 1st, 2007, 3:17pm
IP hot shot, I'm glad to hear that your friends are doing well.  But most non-academic professionals I know work significantly more than 40 hours per week.

Title: Re: Salary Ceiling/Hours Worked
Post by Isaac on Aug 2nd, 2007, 7:33am

on 08/01/07 at 15:17:51, Wiscagent wrote:
IP hot shot, I'm glad to hear that your friends are doing well. But most non-academic professionals I know work significantly more than 40 hours per week.


That was certainly the case for me.   I wasn't in a huge market (Research Triange Park in North Carolina), but after 14 years as an EE, I was working 50+ hours a week and making something just below 6 figures.   The more junior engineers were able to put in lesser hours, but they weren't getting anything like 100k in salary.


Title: Re: Salary Ceiling/Hours Worked
Post by SoCalAttny on Aug 9th, 2007, 11:03pm
Money is good but a good quality of life is better.

I had an engineering job that regularly allowed me to see both oceans in a single day.

I now do IP work close to home. No real commute with good hours and freedom.

I golf every Tuesday and have most Fridays off.

Decide what is most important and do it.

Title: Re: Salary Ceiling/Hours Worked
Post by IP4me on Aug 10th, 2007, 2:05am
I agree.  Quality of life should always be considered.  You have plenty of time to earn moeny.  Both options seem great!  As for engineering making 170K after five years, I don't know where that is.  I have plenty of friends from stanford and berkeley with advanced degrees in EE, CS, and EECS (as am I).  They all started at 80-90 and toped out at 110...

Title: Re: Salary Ceiling/Hours Worked
Post by huskerdooo on Aug 10th, 2007, 12:12pm
IP4me seems to have a good handle on salaries. I have not met any engineers making more than 120 to 130 without going into management. And these salaries would only apply in a competitive area.

I have a BS EE, MS EE, MS CS, MS Management, and a PE license. I am lucky to be pushing 110. I am pretty much stuck here with 3% a year unless some magic occurs.

And... iam not sure where the hours an engineer works comes from.  Most engineers I know work 50+ hours a week...but this depends upon what industry they are in.  Commercial/Small Companies expect free overtime.  Bigger Aerospace types don't.

Title: Re: Salary Ceiling/Hours Worked
Post by Carlo Ocampo on Aug 18th, 2007, 2:32pm
I currently work as a patent engineer at a medium sized firm here in the Silicon Valley.  First year attorneys at my firm make about $160K.  From what I am told they receive about a $10k raise every year until they are up for partnership at the end of their 8th year.  Also, the min billing hours is a bit more than 1800 hrs.  It is 1900 hrs with the option to take 1800 hrs for a reduction in salary.  The firm also offers backpay for any hours over your minimum billing hours.  From what I see at work most attorney are there around 10 hours a day.  They generally bill 8hrs a day with 2 hrs for general office duties/slacking off.

Title: Re: Salary Ceiling/Hours Worked
Post by boostedt0y on Aug 18th, 2007, 2:36pm
Also, over 100k for a MS is pretty good.  I have quite a few buddies with the same degree from top teir schools making only around $80-90k at fortune 500 companies.  That sounds like a very good offer and would be hard to pass up.



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