All of the information is in. At least the hard facts. I obviously can’t see the future or the subjective outcome of other life path. But there are some things that I can see.
Work: Representing men in divorce and the various legal issues surrounding that (custody, parenting time, adoption, criminal law, etc.)
Environment: To begin with, working at an office consisting of about 5 attorneys about an hour away from where I live, then transitioning to handling an office and entire geographical area basically by myself. I would be alone in the office, but could reach out to others as needed.
Pay: This job has offered me $45,000 as a base salary with a very specific bonus structure. The goal is to collect 100 hours of work per month (not just bill, but actually receive payment for). If I meet that goal, then I will be bringing in $20,500 for the firm each month at a billing rate of $205/hr. As a bonus for meeting that goal, I will receive 33% of everything over $15,000 that I bring in. This means that for each month that I meet my goal, I would receive a bonus check of $1,833.33. This works out to an extra $22,000 each year.
Work: General civil practice with exposure to all areas of the law. There is also an emphasis on community involvement.
Environment: Probably the best group of guys I’ve ever met. I was so happy from the moment I walked out of my interviews with them. I felt like a real connection had been made, and that it would be a real honor to work with/for them.
Pay: This job initially offered me $32,500 as a base salary with the potential for bonuses based on “effort, productivity as measured by dollars collected, firm leadership, community activity, and general professional development.” After a phone call, the base salary offer was increased to $36,400 with a guarantee of at least $1,000 for each bonus. Speaking with another associate at the firm, bonuses may range anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000, and the base salary will go up over time as well.
Benefits: In each job, there are also certain perks and benefits, like a covered parking space attached to the building, medical coverage, malpractice insurance, payment of bar dues. One additional benefit being offered by Job B is the encouragement of professional development courses. I love attending ICLE seminars, and I love that I would be able to continue to attend. I would also have dedicated secretarial staff just outside my door, as opposed to staff located in another building an hour away with the other job.
My concern with Job A is being treated as a cog in a machine instead of a person. I worry about not having the time to enjoy the money I might be bringing in because I’m so focused on collecting dollars in order to keep my job, or at least keep my boss off my back.
My concern with Job B is being too concerned about money. I don’t have the benefit of having a husband who earns a steady paycheck that I can fall back on if business is slow at the firm. However, there is a bright future at Job B, when the age of the partners and their impending retirement is taken into consideration. Job A hinted at personnel changes in the future, but who knows how that could turn out? The history behind Job B indicates that the ship will not go down with the captains, while A is built around a single individual.
The strange thing is that there is nothing that draws me emotionally to Job A. But for some reason I still struggle to make this decision. I could do the work there, and probably be good at it, and make a good living for myself. But would I be happy? Will I be happy in the chaos of working in a firm that practices every single type of law instead of just one? It would at least give me exposure to various things and let me decide if I like one thing better than the others, or if I excel at one type of thing versus others.
There is a comfort in Job A though; knowing that every day will likely look very similar to the others. I will wake up, I will go to work, and I will deal with very unhappy people trying to divorce each other or fight over children, and it will be my responsibility to stand in a courtroom and explain to the judge why this person should get more than that person. When I received the job offer, the partner and I had a conversation about the comfort of knowing one type of law. Of being able to look an individual in the eye and tell them with complete confidence that you can handle this situation for them.
But I also think about a conversation that I had with the first judge I worked for. A local pillar of the community had passed away, and we talked about how she had been so involved in various boards and agencies. I remember thinking right then that that was what I wanted out of my life. That I wanted to have the feeling that I was really making a difference for people by improving the world that they live in. My original purpose in attending law school was to save the world, after all. Where will I make a greater impact? Saving the world one child at a time, when I may end up advocating for clients that I may not personally respect simply because I have to bring the dollars in? Or by doing good legal work that I really believe in, and serving my community with my time and effort, creating unknown and possibly unseen ripples through the fabric of time for many individuals?
Today is the last day that I have to think. I can feel the tick of the clock as 5pm draws nearer. And I am nervous. But I think I know what I have to do.