Friday, October 14, 2005

BigLaw Associate and Me

I just discovered a blog that I think I am going to enjoy. It belongs to BigLawAssociate at, and I highly recommend it. B.A. is lamenting big-firm life as an associate. Been there, done that. I graduated from BigLawSchool in 1989, did a year's stint as a federal appeals law clerk (loved it!), and then went with a BigLaw firm with a great reputation in the Southwest.

I hated it from the very first day. And when I left three years later, I hadn't grown to like it any better. About all I can say for it is that I had made some good friends -- not with the lawyers, by the way, but with the secretaries, librarians, and paralegals. Oh -- and I learned a lot about writing from some of the best writers anywhere.

A lot of my problem was me, of course -- I was terrified and intimidated by the responsibility I was given, and it didn't matter whether I was working on a multimillion-dollar securities action or on a pro bono eviction case.

But mostly, it was about BigLaw not being a good fit. How, you ask? Oh, let me count the ways!

The way the lawyers wouldn't say hello to anybody on the elevator except a client or another lawyer.....The way I got unlimited paid leave after I had my baby but the receptionist had to come back to work the week after a C-section because BigFirm didn't give her any benefits.....The way I had trouble getting assignments from the Partners because I didn't play basketball with them......the way I had to work weekends, not because anything really had to be done by Monday, but because I was short on billable hours and I wanted to make sure I'd have time to take assignments during the week if I got any, which I usually didn't....The way I used to look out my 20th floor window and wonder how it would feel to jump out....The way I learned to cringe whenever a partner said he had a "very interesting" assignment for me (note to new associates: when you hear that, run like the wind!......The way I had to pretend I like continental restaurants when in fact I hate them.....The way the firm took down its "no smoking" signs whenever its client BigTobacco came in......I could go on, and on, and on.

When I left, I took a legal aid job on an Indian Reservation. I had to declare bankruptcy to do it, but even so, I have never regretted it.

My firm was one of those that was supposed to be humane. And relatively speaking, I suppose it was. But I learned, in my three years at my BigFirm, that a firm is a firm is a firm is a firm is a firm. When the numbers start going down, they're all going to start drawing blood. A law firm is, after all, a business.

I'm happy to report that my firm imploded not too long after I left. I'm glad I left before that happened, because I'm pretty sure I would not have been asked to join either of the two law firms that came out of the ashes.

I created a file (the paper kind) towards the end of my time at BigFirm: "Why I don't want to work in a firm any more." I still have it somewhere. It had in it, among other things, my annual evaluation.

When I left private practice, I said many times that I would clean toilets before I went back to a firm. And when I have needed money, I have done just that.

Someday I may go back to practicing law (G-d help me, I have applied for my new state's bar exam; but I have Credit Issues so it will be a little while before those folks let me play with them). But unless I have no other way to feed my kid, it won't be at BigFirm.

B.A., keep up the good work. Lots of people ask me why I don't practice law any more, but never lawyers. Learn what you can and move on.

1 comment:

  1. Bernice Stelle Autumn Drake3:59 AM

    Read by Bea.