Thursday, October 28, 2004

She doesn't understand what it's like. She doesn't understand that I have responsibilities that go beyond what she wants me to do, and that it's the clients who pay for her trips to the beauty spa, and the junk she "collects." If they need something, I have to be there. It's not a choice. I'm not choosing to put work first. It's just something that has to be. Or she wouldn't have gotten to live the life she's gotten accustomed to living. She likes nice things. I like nice things too. She likes them more. But to get nice things, I needed to make sacrifices. She accepted those sacrifices when we got married. But I don't think she ever truly understood. This is a service industry. I don't control my hours as much as a businessman does. I don't control my hours as much as she did when she was working. These aren't set hours. What I do funds her diversions. It funded her headshots when she decided she wanted to "act." It funded her art supplies when she decided she wanted to "paint." It funds the goddamned organic food she insists is healthier but is really just twice as expensive. Organic baby food. Like it made a difference. My biggest fear every day is that he ends up like her because I didn't spend enough time with him growing up. That he ends up shallow and empty like her. Maybe it's better to be shallow and empty. At least then you don't agonize. I agonize over this. Maybe I make the wrong choices, but at least I can acknowledge it. I know what I'm choosing. I'm aware this isn't good. That I've ended up somewhere I never meant to go. Maybe it's better not to know. To not have the capacity for self-reflection. It's a burden. She's not like me. She reacts. She responds. But she doesn't reflect. She doesn't contemplate. She doesn't question. I think I'm saying she's stupid. I think I've always known she's stupid, but accepted it because I didn't know if I deserved better. This isn't an easy life, and it hasn't made me an easy person. So I ignored it, and pretended she was more than she is. But if she's turned him stupid too, I don't know if I can live with it. He has potential. I don't know the extent of it. But I'm sure it's more than she can understand. I used to have potential. Now I have golf clubs and a $9,000 barbecue grill.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Anonymous Wife left.

Almost two weeks ago, which may help explain the lack of regular writing recently.

I told her I thought the counseling was helping, but she said it wasn't helping fast enough. She said I wasn't putting family first, and that maybe if she left for a little while I could work on that without "distractions." So I have been trying to work on that. Without a tremendous amount of success, but it is very easy to bury yourself in work when you have no one to come home to. Not that I was necessarily finding it difficult to bury myself in work when I did have someone to come home to.

But I accepted what she was saying at face value. I knew what I had to do to get her back. I have been trying. I can change my priorities. On Saturday I realized she has been lying to me. That was my "nightmare" posting, and the reason I had to get away. Somehow, and it doesn't matter how, I discovered she had slept with another partner here. Not particularly recently, and only once, but it has changed everything. I need to protect my assets. I need to collect evidence. I can be good at this. This is how I'm paid to think. She will not bleed me dry, if this is really the end. I probably should not be writing about this.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

I just woke up in a cold sweat. I had a nightmare.

I'm taking Monday off from work. We're getting to the end of recruiting season; I can afford one day off. Going to do something. I haven't decided what yet. Maybe skydiving. Something to feel again. Any ideas? Needs to be a place I can bring my Blackberry, just in case.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Someone accepted an offer today. Next summer's class is starting to shape up. I hate the people who take forever to decide, and make us send them cookies, or brownies, or t-shirts. Those things shouldn't make a difference. After all of these years, I still haven't figured out how law students make their decisions. We track the firms we're competing against, at least to the extent the people with offers tell us who else they're looking at, and there's no way to predict consistently what people will do. It's not as if we consistently get people who are choosing between us and one particular firm, and lose people choosing between us and another particular firm. There just isn't much of a pattern. We also track by reasons students give for turning us down, and there's no rhyme or reason there either. "Didn't feel right" is what we hear most, which is just students trying to be polite. Practice group issues are also things we hear a lot, because people want to do one thing and we're weaker in it, or at least they perceive us to be weaker, not that they know anything. For years we were thought to be weak in a specific practice, and everyone at the firm knew it wasn't true and we were building competency and clients and would soon be a big player. And we would tell students that. But they wouldn't listen. Now, we're one of the best at it. And people choose us for it. One thing I don't understand are the students whose resumes show them really dedicated to something -- environmental issues, human rights issues, education issues -- and then they choose a firm to work in that practice group, even though the work the firm does is on the "wrong" side of the issue. There's a firm with a human rights practice group I know of, and Burma is one of its clients. There are firms that recruit at schools with top environmental programs for students to staff their cases defending companies that pollute. I am in complete support for firms doing this kind of work - it's lucrative, no doubt. But I don't understand how they (and we) get students to come on board, especially students who have spent their time at school working on the other side of the issue. My angle has often been to try and push the generally uncommitted "corporate people" or "litigation people" into the "difficult to justify morally" practice areas, but that isn't the pattern lately. I read somewhere recently that there are firms lining up to defend Saddam Hussein. That's a tough sell in the recruiting process, or so I would expect. Although perhaps I'm wrong.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

A colleague in New York just e-mailed me to tell me the Red Sox won Game 6. I'm still in the office, so I haven't been watching, but I did see the end of last night's game. I still can't believe the Dodgers were knocked out without putting up much of a fight. I think it's going to be the Red Sox tomorrow night. They have the momentum. Just like whenever I need an associate to work overnight, I pick the one who's been working the hardest recently, because he has the momentum.

One of my colleagues here has been chiding me recently because I've never done any pro bono hours since I was a third-year associate and did a divorce case. He tries to do 10 hours a year, and he thinks it makes him better than the rest of us. So I might take on a case, just to show him I'm not a heartless human being. Maybe I'll help his kids petition for emancipation.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Someone wrote a comment in the previous thread: "Housing prices increase annually. Living costs increase annually. Can someone tell me why starting salaries don't? Why keep it at $125K for 4 years and then suddenly increase it to $135 or $140? Why not just do it piecemeal, each year, to match inflation? In other words, why not just decide how much a starting lawyer is worth to a Biglaw firm, as compared to other indicators like cost of living, and then just adjust that on an annual basis to match inflation? I don't mean to rant; I honestly don't understand the current system. If someone could explain it, that would be great."

With those kinds of critical thinking skills, you must be one of my associates. We're a business. We want to pay as little as we can. This has nothing to do with the cost of living. It has to do with what the market will bear. If people want to think that the economy has been terrible and we're losing money and that's why we haven't raised our starting salary, and so they accept that it has stayed at $125K, then we're in no mood to convince them otherwise. The only reason it got that high is because we were competing with high-tech firms during the dot-com boom and needed people to choose us. Now, we're competing with nobody, so why raise the salary? We'd lower it if we could, but no one has the guts to, because if our peer firms don't follow, no one will come work for us. This is economics, not social welfare. Why not adjust our salary to match inflation? Where in private industry does this ever happen? There's no "how much a starting lawyer is worth" -- despite all these overeducated young associates thinking they're all superstars, some of them are worth a lot, and some of them are worth nothing. But if we start playing around with salaries we'll confuse recruits and lose out on them. We will do what our peer firms do, and our peer firms do what we do? Cost-of-living adjustments? You must work for the government.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

I had lunch this afternoon with a 3L who still has an outstanding offer from us. He's the last holdout, where we have no response either way, and no real explanation of what's taking him so long. Technically the deadline is November 1, but we don't like to wait that long. So I had him come down here for lunch to try and get to the bottom of this. He's not reinterviewing. He's not doing anything with clerkships. He doesn't know what he'll do if he doesn't come here, but doesn't know if this is the right move for him. I told him he's being stupid if he has nothing else out there and doesn't take the offer. It's a lot of money. It's a prestigious career. I don't think he realizes it's not that easy to find someone willing to pay this much money to a 25-year-old kid with no experience doing anything, for a job that has a lot of security. My basic sales pitch is that he'll regret it for the rest of his life if he doesn't take the offer, and he'll look back on it as the worst decision he ever made. People just don't pass us up in favor of uncertainty and an empty bank account. It doesn't happen. And if it does, they deserve the disaster that will befall them, the poverty, the regret, and the thoughts of having committed true career suicide, before you've even started. People would kill for these jobs. You don't treat us like we're an option. You go to law school, you owe yourself a couple of years at a firm. If you're not clerking, or you're not a crazy public interest lunatic, if you can get one of these jobs, how do you not take it? How do you choose nothing over $125,000 a year plus bonus plus the respect society affords us. How do you explain that choice to your family? How do you explain it to your friends? If you pass us up, you'd have to be so stupid we shouldn't have even hired you to begin with.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

I got back some research from a second-year associate today, and it was reasonably good. I told him so. His reply annoyed me. "It's not like you need to be a quantum physicist to do the work you give us around here." Like it's beneath him to do legal work. Like helping our clients make deals is not important. I am often frustrated by the lifestyle, but for the kind of work we do, there are few places you can do better work than here. We represent important companies doing important things. Companies that impact people's lives. How many quantum physicists impact people's lives? They sit in a laboratory all day. We help grease the wheels of capitalism. At the end of the day, we make a difference in a company's bottom line. I told the associate, if he thinks this work is beneath him, there's nothing forcing him to stay. He apologized and said he didn't mean anything by it. Just tired. And he's only been here a little while. If he feels this way now, I'd hate to see him when he's my age.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Finally, a day without any interviews. Just a scheduling fluke, but it's the first day in a while. I like to think I was a better person in law school than I am now, but the more law students I meet, the less I think that's true. Most of the law students I meet deserve to become like me, because they're already halfway there. There's a profound lack of humanity in a callback interview. It's all a farce, on both sides of the table. They're lying to me about how much they want to do this, regardless of the salary, and I'm lying to them about how much they should.

"You get to work on some of the most interesting and challenging cases in the country." Not a lie, but I don't say that what you'll be doing on them is mindless paper-pushing, and if you mess up, I'm going to scream at you until you cry.

"Our summer program gives you the chance to experience what an associate's life is like." Except the associates don't get to go to Dodgers games and sit in the firm's box, don't get to leave by six, and don't get nice lunches every day.

It is too late for me. I have forgotten what it's like to feel good about my life. It is not too late for the people who come in here with their revised resumes changing "line editor" to "article editor," like I really believe there's a difference. But maybe it is too late. Because they do want to work here. They desperately, desperately do want to work here. People have sent me resumes. Me Anonymous Lawyer, not Me Hiring Partner. You don't know who I am, and yet you send me a resume, begging for an interview. You've demonstrated lack of judgment just by sending it. Or maybe you haven't. Maybe you're just being smart. I've read the resumes. It's not getting anyone a job, but I've read them, just out of curiosity. So maybe it is too late. And maybe the money is worth it. I can't tell anymore. I only know the life I've lived. And what I have to show for it. I almost volunteered to take on a pro bono case this morning. But then I realized it won't replace the hours I spend on my clients, it'll just add to them. And I can't do that. There's only so many hours in the day, and only so much energy to expend. And it's not like pro bono work is any different anyway. The psychic rewards aren't enough. Such is life.

Friday, October 08, 2004

These damn planes flying overhead recently have made life in the office marginally more annoying for the past few months. There's a new flight path. It's unpleasant.

I don't want to respond extensively, at least not at this point in time, to the comment thread below venturing some guesses as to my identity. But I did want to mention that there are practice areas, here and everywhere, that incorporate aspects of both transactional and litigation work. Corporate restructuring is the first that comes to mind. That's not to necessarily say my practice is in one of these areas.

There are associates who've mentioned they'd like to leave this evening in time to get home and watch the Presidential debate. I have trouble understanding why anyone working at a place like this can really bring himself to care. Under either administration, our salaries are safe.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Law students must be bolder this year than in the past. Or perhaps they're recognizing the job market is a bit looser generally than it has been in recent years, and taking advantage. After yesterday's e-mail from the 3L who wanted to know why he didn't get a callback, today I got an e-mail from someone who got a callback but no offer, wanting to know if it was how she looked. She said there's a reputation on campus that we're one of a few firms in the area that seem to actively prefer pretty people, all else being equal. I'm not sure she's wrong. There is a time, although it's not all that soon after someone starts, when associates will meet clients, and I'd rather clients not meet ugly attorneys. They're going to get ugly anyway after a few years without sleep and subsisting on fast food alternated with 3- and 4-course business lunches. But at least if they start out attractive, and I don't just mean the women, we don't collectively fall as far down that slope as we could. I think how our people look reflects on the firm. If they look bright and attractive and friendly, our clients will want to work with us. If they're short, fat, and homely, clients will look elsewhere. I could understand the concern if we were using "attractive" as a code word for something else, like "white," or "Christian," or "unencumbered by children," but I don't think we are. We're as diverse as our peers. But I wouldn't be hurt if someone accused us of having better-looking attorneys. Or at least more attractive paralegals and secretaries, because there's really no argument to cut against that. Besides, wouldn't you rather look at pretty people all else being equal, especially given the hours we're here?

Monday, October 04, 2004

I got an e-mail today from a 3L we didn't give a callback to, wanting to know what he could have done differently. "Not be a 3L" is my honest answer. We have hundreds and hundreds of 2Ls who want to come work for us. All else being equal, why would we take a 3L? To me, if you're re-interviewing as a 3L, after spending your 2L summer at a firm, it means you made some sort of mistake in the process. It means either you made a bad choice because of some factor you didn't think about, like what practice groups the firm has, or firm size, or location, or, more commonly, you didn't get along with the people at your firm, and, even if you got an offer, you don't want to go back. Because no one would subject themselves to the recruiting process for a second year unless they really had a bad time. The problem is that if you didn't get along with the people at one firm, I have no reason to believe we'll find you any more palatable here. After all, despite our marketing pitches, we know we're all basically the same. And if you're a jackass at one firm, you're going to be a jackass here, and we don't need any more jackasses. Alternatively, if you made a bad choice in terms of firm size, or what kind of law you want to practice, or location, it tells me that you're not good at making decisions. Everyone knows that 2L year you're supposed to make choices about your post-graduation firm. 90% of the 2Ls who work at firms go back without a problem. So if you're one of the 10% with a problem, you're tainted. For whatever reason, you couldn't do what 90% of your classmates did, and make a choice you're going to be content with. Why should I believe you're making a better choice now? And why would I want one of the 10% who have issues when I could have a 90% chance with a 2L. If you didn't like it at the firm down the street, I have no reason to believe you're going to like it here, and you'll probably bring everyone else down with you. You may think it was the wrong firm, but maybe it's the wrong industry. Maybe you just can't hack it. Maybe you should go work at Disneyland. Stupid 3Ls think they're entitled to callbacks just because they got an offer at their 2L firm. Everyone gets an offer. If you didn't get an offer you're probably not even equipped to sit in a chair for twenty minutes without falling out. If you're a 3L, something went wrong. And I don't want you.

The one exception is people whose grades have taken a leap and they want a chance at a better firm than where they were before. Those people can sometimes get offers, if I'm convinced that whatever kept them from getting good grades to begin with isn't going to resurface as a problem once they get here. But it's a much tougher standard than for a 2L. 2Ls are fresh meat. It's better that way.

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