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Salary Differences and Considerations: BigLaw vs Small Law

If you look into lawyer salaries, there's one number that appears consistently: $160,000. This is the number often cited as the starting salary of first year associates at BigLaw firms such as Latham Watkins, DLA Piper, and Jones Day.

This $160,000 figure has remained largely unchanged for years and is expected to basically carry over into 2016. It's easy for many attorneys to be dazzled by this number and to make their primary mission to get into one of the BigLaw firms without taking into full account some of the trade-offs.

For most lawyers, the legal profession isn't one that keeps you on your toes, at least not literally. Most of us will spend a good chunk of our days sitting behind a desk. If we're lucky, we might get a nice detour to a conference room or, on rare occasions, a court house -- but mostly, legal brainwork requires little physical stimulation.

All that sitting is terrible for you. Sitting for more than three hours a day knocks an average of two years off your life while easily adding an inch or two to your waste. You're not about to give up the law for a career as a professional jogger, however, so here are five ways to combat the sedentary nature of the profession -- all of which you can do at work.

As a child, you might have dreamed of arguing before the Supreme Court, swaying The Nine to the side of justice, righteousness, equity. Then you went to law school, started to practice and, well -- things change. Most solo practitioners and small firm attorneys gave up on Supreme Court dreams a while back. Now, you probably dream of clients who pay on time or landing an in-house gig.

You were right to abandon those dreams. No one argues before the Supreme Court, except, a Reuters report shows, a tiny handful of well-connected lawyers.

It's a good time to be a woman in the legal profession. That is, at least when it comes to awards and accolades, if not equity-partnerships. Five female legal trailblazers were honored last Sunday with the Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Awards. That ceremony came just a week after Working Mother and Flex-Time Lawyers announced the 50 best law firms for women.

So, if you're looking to follow in the footsteps of great lawyers, and looking for the right firm to do it in, pay attention. Here's a look at the women and firms on top of the legal world.

Courthouse shootings and violent crimes are rare, but they aren't unheard of. From X-rays to pat-downs, many courthouses have installed security procedures to protect against potential violence. Some courts have extended those procedures to lawyers as well, requiring attorneys to remove belts and pass through metal detectors in order to enter the courthouse.

That's a step too far, according to many lawyers. They've begun pushing back against the strict security procedures -- and they're having some success at it, too.

Most discussions on work-life balance focus on giving lawyers sufficient time off, finding opportunities for lawyers to meet their children or glimpse a beach, while trying to still bill 80 hours a week.

But there's more to quality of life than just spare time and high pay. In fact, lawyers can improve their quality of life, and that of their firm, by focusing on factors other than hours and compensation altogether.

It's time for Discovery's Shark Week again, the annual celebration of all things cold-blooded, sharp toothed, and, well, sharky. FindLaw is jumping on the bandwagon, celebrating the shark in all lawyers.

Even though Shark Week is in its 28th year, lawyers have been called sharks even longer -- for several centuries, in fact. Here's a brief history of the lawyer as shark:

We're not talking mercury in the ground or asbestos in the ceiling here. The type of toxic workplace we have in mind isn't one that poisons you over decades -- it grinds you down every day. A toxic work environment is filled with rude or insensitive interactions, aggressive relationships, and dehumanizing treatment.

Stay up late all night finishing a project, only to be told the next morning not to disturb the partners with late night emails? Regularly get chewed out by the lawyer with thinning hair and an alcohol problem for things that aren't even your fault? Working on your 3,000 billable hour quota? You have a toxic work environment. If you're still not sure, The New York Times has a nice quiz -- and we've got tips to dealing with the result.

Society seems to be getting more diverse every day. If you're not convinced, just check out the array of bar associations in your area. You'll find that there's a bar association or committee for practically every geographic location, ethnicity, and legal practice area you can imagine.

Did you know there's even a National Cannabis Bar Association? That's right, a bar association dedicated to cannabis! Formed recently by a group of San Francisco-based lawyers (no surprise there, right?), the association seeks to bring the legal marijuana manufacturing sector into the mainstream.

Pot isn't your thing? That's okay. You can still experiment with getting high by joining the Lawyer-Pilots Bar Association.

Summer is here and the beach is calling -- someone else's name? For many lawyers, getting away to enjoy the summer is no easy task. But it's not impossible and the benefits of taking a moment away from the law firm can be great: vacations can help you avoid burn out, devote time to relationships, relearn your children's names.

With a little planning, even the busiest lawyers can get away for a summer vacation or two. Here's a roundup of some of our best advice on how to take a successful vacation.