PSL thinking of a move to fee-earn in US law firm - am I mad?

Bored and unfulfilled as a PSL. Want to move but scared of negative impact on life. Are US firms awful? What are the typical hours?

Depends on the firm and the department.

If you are going to a big department within a big London office of a US firm, might be a great move - good pay but you will avoid mad hours.

The PSL in the corporate department of the US firm I used to work at seemed to really like his job, was treated with respect by the fee earners, and apparently had a good work/life balance. 

Would treat a similar role at a small London office/within a small team in a London office of US firm with caution.

He/she said he/she wants to be a fee earner not a PSL dude.

It really depends on you as a person and what you enjoy/don't enjoy. Don't be fooled into looking at billable hours per year as a metric for how much you work. 2,000 hours at a US firm is very different from 2,000 hours at silver circle firm. You will need to be very responsive, most client requests get dealt with same day or next day. The way of working is much more flexible / entrepreneurial than UK firms but you need to see it as a lifestyle choice for example you can often come in a bit later and pop out / go to the gym, shops etc during the day but then expect to be logging back in at 7pm through to midnight. It varies of course but there is no average or typical week. Most people do it for 2-4 years before they leave with a load of cash. Don't fall into the trap of increasing your outgoings. The real winners maintain their current lifestyle and just bank all the £ and leave. 

I have that lifestyle already but am paid like shit. FML.

If you back yourself then take the jump and just do it. I do feel there is a certain type of self confident, proactive, self-starter type that self selects themselves to work at this sort of place though. Its interesting who thrives on it and who wouldn't take the job no matter what. I have tried to convince several lawyers I know to come across when vacancies have arisen but none of them have/just couldn't take the risk. I guess if you take the risk and through yourself in then that's a pretty sure way of knowing it will all be fine as that's the kind of person who thrives. Honestly speaking though - the £ alone is life changing if you can bank the difference for 2-4 years. Get yourself a nice house on a small mortgage, buy a few dream items and then kick back later on.

Thanks all. Lots to consider. I’m fine with hard work if it comes with autonomy. 

Problem is it’s not just me. If it was I’d go for it and love it. But I have kids now and need energy for them too. The eternal working parent conundrum. 

I like the sound of entrepreneurial. What would 2000 hours at a silver circle firm be like, by comparison??

2000+ chargeable hours means A LOT of time in the office, even if the office can now include your spare bedroom at home. It is quite a leap to make from PSL in terms of hours at work. If you want to keep spending time with your kids, perhaps a mid-market City firm (1500-1600 hours a year) would offer a better balance for you. You could also work 4 days a week, which is not an opp you would easily find at a US firm.

US firms very much have a culture of being seen to work long hours, too. That's a large part of the reason they are so profitable.

What is it that attracts you particularly to US or Silver Circle firms - is it the money?

Sorry - didn't read the OP properly.

That is likely to be a big shock (from PSL to US fee-earning), but not all US firms are the same.

A small London office of a New York firm in a transactional role is likely to be brutal, but in contentious roles (to the extent there are any) you might find that you don't actually have that much to do, but that your career prospects are non-existent.

The difference between 2k hours at silver circle and 2k hours at US is when those hours are done.

2k at silver circle is consistently long days. 2k at US is feast and famine, lots of all nighters followed by not doing a lot. Great for younger people but not great for people with families.

That's spot-on. When I was at a US firm, someone in my department quit to go in-house to govt legal service at an enormous drop in salary, as they were regularly twiddling their thumbs Mon-Wed, then had to work like a dog Thurs-Sunday for sociopathic partners, losing most weekends, but then not making their hours for a bonus.

That's certainly my experience Tatey!

I did more hours in the silver circle than US firm but it was consistently - like 9-7 each day. Was able to plan my life accordingly. Constantly having to cancel holidays, weekend plans etc at a US firm was not fun!

How is the difference for 2-4 years life changing, other than being able to take out a huge mortgage? How much are we talking netnet, accounting for some inevitable lifestyle creep?

For a mid to senior level associate you are looking at about 8.5 - 10.5k net take home a month. This is in addition to a gross annual bonus of around 30-40k plus this year a COVID bonus of around 30k gross. Assuming you have an existing mortgage or rent of about 2.5k a month + 1k of "outgoings" then you can save at least 5-6k a month, which over 4 years and including your bonuses means you can leave US law in 4 years with over 350k saved. 

Is this even realistically an option open to you OP? Would they even take you on?

I do wonder about these threads where one new poster 1 enquires about whether US firms are all that bad and new poster 2 pops up to bang on about the money.

Are US firms finding it hard to hire?

If you a single, young and / or don’t value your free time or private life then you can get a well paid job at a US firm or MC. I have a family and a life outside work so it simply wouldn’t work for me. 

Every UK lawyer should be glad US firms came to London. They set the market for pay now.

why did you get into PSL to begin with?

Usually people move because they are tired of fee-earning life.

Does anyone do the US law firm thing for anything other than the £££? Agree above, fine if your young, single and relatively care free.

In a transactional department you will work 9-10pm as standard, plus extra hours around closings etc. Its harder to switch off at home so probably round the clock. Client demands are everything, your personal life means nothing. 

Yes, you will be paid exceptionally well.  Save where you can, don't mortgage yourself to the hilt. Get out when you can.

Or have a life elsewhere.

Transactional lawyering really is the shitty end of the stick, isn't it?

So glad I moved to an advisory role. 

Transactional law is a great area for people who don't love / are not obsessed with, the law but who enjoy being lawyers and negotiating / project managing and getting deals done. A finance lawyer will be project managing and problem solving 50% of the time and that can be very enjoyable. Also with transactional law it's ebbs and flows and peaks and troughs so there is a certain rhythm to it and the adrenaline of closing the deal. In any case, at a US firm you will be a slave to deal and so do it for 3-5 years and get out 

 Your first sentence is pretty conditional upon being willing to accept your last sentence.

The 2-4 year argument is only valid if you are content with sacrificing everything else in your life, for the job.

If you’re not willing to do so, the extra cash you bank is irrelevant. You can still get a mortgage / save a significant amount if you’re on, say, 70-90k at a mid-sized UK firm, working less outrageous hours (of course, there will still be some late nights but not to the same extent or frequency as at US). Also, 3.5k a month of expenses (rent/mortgage + outgoings) is pretty outrageous and certainly not the norm for most people. 

To answer OP’s Q - it always comes down to the individual - we’re all different and there’s no right or wrong; it’s what you prefer. Personally, I’d advise against it.