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5 Signs You'll Never Excel In BigLaw

Jimmy Hoover law360.com

Modern priorities like finding a work-life balance might be a newer factor discouraging careers in BigLaw, but the industry has always been especially tough on individuals who work better on their own, as well as those who struggle to market themselves, experts say.

Indeed, it's not just the weekend-worshipping millennial lawyer who might not be the right fit for the nation's largest firms. Independent, entrepreneurial attorneys not as desperate to please the herd can find BigLaw suffocating, while gifted lawyers who struggle to originate business might never make partner despite years of hard work.

Below, experts ranging from ex-BigLaw attorneys to legal recruiting professionals tell Law360 about the dead giveaways that an attorney won't succeed in BigLaw.

"It's a 24/7 job and the clients are expecting that their questions will be answered as soon as they're asked," said Jeffrey Lowe, global practice leader at Major, Lindsey & Africa. "If that's not compatible with your lifestyle, then you should definitely not work at a big law firm."

Whereas in a bygone era, Lowe said, attorneys could see their hourly demands drop with seniority, today's constant pressure to outearn other firms has eliminated that workload reduction.

"People are expected to produce at that level at all age groups in the spectrum," Lowe said. "I think it's a very intense environment, and so it really is not for the meek."

It's one thing to be able to weather last-minute client requests and tackle complex problems in the 11th hour of high-stakes litigation, but it's another thing entirely to thrive in that environment. From his time at BigLaw firms, Lowe said he remembered the "serious psychic energy" that senior partners would emit when the unpredictable occurred.

"You have to love it. You have to be someone who loves the fact that your client just called you at 5 p.m. on a Friday, and you have to work through the weekend," Lowe said. "That's what separates those who are the most successful in BigLaw from those who are trying to hang on."

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