Wednesday, January 10, 2007

An associate came by my office about an hour ago and said he watched the President's speech tonight on streaming video over the Internet and it struck a chord in him. He thinks he's wasting his life at the firm, and needs more meaning in his day-to-day existence. He wants to go to Iraq. At the very least, he thinks it'll extend his lifespan a little, since law firm associates tend to drop dead after a couple of years of hundred-hour work weeks. He said he's tired of sitting at his desk and he wants to do something more active, something outdoors. And he wants to work directly with people instead of having everything mediated by layers of partners and associates above him blocking him from ever even seeing the client, or seeing the effect his work has on the outside world. He wants to see results first-hand, instead of reading about them in the annual report. And he wants to go somewhere where his BlackBerry won't work.

Obviously if this becomes a trend, we'll see a New York Times piece on the subject, or maybe the Washington Post. Life in Iraq better than life as a law firm associate. Look, it's all overdramatized. Obviously life on the ground in Iraq is not better than life at the firm, even if you get to see the true results of your work, even if you're on duty for fewer hours a week, even if you sometimes get a vacation. It's just that people today are soft. They expect everything out of work, and work can't provide it. That's why it's work. My grandparents worked so they wouldn't starve. But kids today have a safety net. They have parents with the means to make sure they have a place to live and food to eat. Even if they're supporting themselves, they have the knowledge in the back of their minds that they're safe, that they'll be okay, that they're not a month away from being homeless. And it makes them lazy and entitled. It makes them think they deserve more than just a job, and that work needs to be fun and satisfying and fulfilling. Why? That's a luxury that very few people have. Very few jobs are enjoyable. No one's selling the law firm job as enjoyable. It's lucrative and secure and isn't that enough?

Iraq is neither lucrative nor secure, although I suppose maybe it is secure, since it doesn't look like we're leaving anytime soon. Although most of our engagements run longer than even the war is going to. Why drop a paying client, even when there's no more work to be done? There's always more work to be done. We're establishing democracy at one of the largest banks in the country. It's a hard job but someone's got to do it.

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