How a top lawyer with a salary of $500,000 spends his money

  • Big Law salaries are higher than ever, and junior attorneys are reaping the benefits.
  • For those in cheaper markets outside of New York, that can mean tons of discretionary money.
  • A Dallas lawyer told Insider about his expenses and savings.

Insider interviewed an attorney at a major law firm in Dallas who graduated from law school in 2015, earns half a million dollars a year and no longer has student loan debt. He shared his income, views on money, and spending habits for a week. The lawyer requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about his firm. His identity is known and verified by Insider. The following has been edited and condensed for clarity.

I was born and raised in Dallas. I went to a private school here in Dallas that is nationally known for its debating program. And I found myself in this little circuit of debaters on national politics. A lot of people go from that to avocado – it’s like a simple step two. Ever since ninth grade, I was like, “Oh, I’m going to be a litigator.”

I think my brain works in a way that makes me good at being a litigator. There are definitely elements of the job that I don’t like, like billable hours, but there’s always a path in the law that makes sense. I think my hours are better than almost anyone else in Big Law. I will probably end the year at 1,900 hours. Last year I billed 1,952 or 1,953 hours, just enough to get the premium.

I had about $140,000 in student loans when I graduated from law school, but paid them off after a few years of work. My fiancée is an asset manager for a private equity firm. We maintain our own accounts and split bills and payments in proportion to our income.

Honestly, I don’t stick to a budget. No budget. Not counting 401(k) contributions, I save about $9,000 to $10,000 a month and then that gets distributed. I save just to save. I want to renovate houses, so I would say a lot more of my money is in cash right now than I usually would like, but I have to be prepared to write a check for a

advance payment

. I bought a house when I was a third-year associate, I believe. My mortgage each month is taken automatically from my checking account, which is about $1,900.

I have so many outrageous discretionary expenses for stupid stuff, like gun stuff. I have a few handguns and an 8 inch assault rifle. What’s the attraction? I think part is a Legos item. I think it’s hard to build. And there is the aesthetic appeal of the collector. And we have a property in Colorado – my family has it – and I like photographing it there.

In my office today, I was like, “It would be nice if I had TV speakers in my office.” Instead of buying a $50 soundbar, I bought a pair of $600 Klipsch speakers. I could easily cut that. It wouldn’t materially affect my happiness.

Recurrent expenses

Income: About $500,000 in 2021, or about $42,000/month.

Mortgage: ~$1,900/month.

Loans: $0. I paid them a few years after I graduated from law school.

Car payments: ~$500/month for a Lexus SUV. The Porsche pays off.

Insurance: ~$300/month. The house and the car are grouped together.

Internet: $100/month.

Cellular: $84/month, of which $60 reimbursed.

Utilities: ~$250/month.

Lawn maintenance: $120/month.

YouTube television

: $70/month.

Grocery: $0. My partner, who works in private equity, takes care of it.

House cleaner: $0. My partner also pays this bill.

Total expenses: $3,264/month

A week in the life

Friday, May 27: I’m in DC visiting co-workers, clients and friends. I would like to be proposed as a partner next year, so it is important to go to the main offices and remind people that I exist. I’m not counting the hotel or Lyfts here because they’re a mix of expense, boring, and uncommitted on regular weeks. I buy a bottle of water and peanuts at a DC courthouse ($5.82). Lunch is at the Shake Shack ($19.97).

In the afternoon, my fiancée, “J”, joins me for the weekend, and we head to a double date at Tail Up Goat with a colleague. We split the bill: $317.39 each. Got a Fernet Flip for a quick after dinner drink ($23.90). Total: $367.08

Saturday May 28: We walk to a bakery near the hotel, A Baked Joint ($34.07). We spend the day walking around DC. But we don’t spend anything other than buying a cupcake from Baked & Wired in the afternoon ($9). J and I are going to Bresca for dinner. It’s a bit pricey ($908.16) because we add extra courses and do wine pairings. But it’s a travel weekend, and I care about food. Total: $951.23

Sunday May 29: We have a leisurely but sober breakfast at the hotel’s Café Riggs ($68.30). Then we head to a partner’s house for a few hours by the pool. (Who has a pool in Washington?) I bring vinho verde and a pet-nat ($52.15). We have pizza ($27.65) and wine ($33.11) and watch a romantic comedy (“When Harry Met Sally”) at the hotel restaurant for dinner. I pretend to complain to J about his choice of movie, but then I laugh a little too hard to maintain my feigned disinterest. Total: $181.21

Monday, May 30: We are going back to Dallas. Other than a few Lyfts, I spend nothing on Mondays. I smoked, then seared steaks I bought at Central Market (a Texas version from Whole Foods that’s 10 times better). Total: $0

Tuesday, May 31: Another day without spending. I make myself a turkey sandwich almost every day for lunch. I grill chicken and broccolini for dinner. I take care of the dinners on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I am in charge of dinners on Mondays and Wednesdays. “In charge” means no consultation. You cook or buy dinner and the other person eats it without complaining. So effective. Total: $0

Wednesday, June 1: I head to the office for my one day a week. I have tacos for lunch ($12.99). I see a good deal on a Barolo on Last Bottle Wines (a very dangerous website) and buy six bottles ($177.65). It’s dangerous to ship wine to Texas in the summer, so I pay a little more for cold shipping. I buy fertilizer and fire starters from Amazon ($40.32), then go for a drink at the Rosewood Mansion ($59.79) with a friend who just started his own law firm. Total: $290.75

Thursday, June 2: I’m going to a law firm event for dinner ($744.47 which I’m obviously going to spend). I bring a Lyft home around 10 p.m. and play “Valorant”, a video game, for an hour. I spend $54.11 for a digital knife. Don’t tell J. Total: $54.11

Friday, June 3: I get a call in the morning that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has approved my purchase of a .22 silencer that I ordered months ago. I don’t even own a .22, so I order an almost impossible-to-find FN 502 ($610.50) from a random store in Indiana. I’m also ordering a light ($140.67) and optic ($243.55) from Amazon for the new gun.

I have next to no reason to buy any of these things, but I justify the expense by telling myself that they will help J become more comfortable shooting my other guns (which I don’t have no longer needed). To top off my very Texas day, my neighbor comes by for a cigar and a pizza ($69.77). Total: $1,064.49

Total week: $2,908.87

About Janet Young

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