10 Very Not Bad Things About Biglaw


Everyone loves to hate on Biglaw, myself included.  But in an effort to be balanced, and to avoid leaving a trail of terrified law students in my wake, I thought it might be refreshing for all to hear some good things about Biglaw.  I also wanted to explain a little about my relationship with Biglaw and why it reminds me of eggplant parmigiana.  Here goes nothing:

1.  You can meet very interesting people, who have done very interesting things.  For example, many of our clients have led inspiring lives.  It is always interesting to learn about these people and how they arrived at where they are today.

2.  In an extension of my first point, many of the partners that I have worked with have held high positions in government, have led newsworthy transactions, or are otherwise pretty accomplished.  I have been lucky enough to find more than one of these impressive people who are also educators by nature.  They have truly mentored me, spending a good deal of time teaching me about our clients’ industries, the major players and our role as their attorneys. 

3.  If you’re not particularly organized or detail oriented — or if you are typically hesitant to take full responsibility for large, scary tasks that you know nothing about and have never before attempted — Biglaw will force you to take the reins and hone those skills.  Before Biglaw, I was known to leave my apartment without my wallet, keys or Metrocard.  I often became entangled in my own loose ends.  Not (as much) anymore.  Whatever I do next, I will owe any smooth execution to time served in Biglaw.

4.  A miserable bunch of junior associates makes for a great group of friends.  Not unlike boot camp, the misery of Biglaw creates enduring bonds.  I will forever treasure the laughs shared with my comrades at our own expense.

5.  Along with great colleagues, there are some really fucking ridiculous ones.  I’m talking stereotypical, rich, white guy stuff.  It’s good to know that there are people like that out there in the world, to understand them and shore up your defenses, and to laugh at them once all the rest is done.

6.  If you don’t like your family or friends, you don’t have to see them that often.  This can be a curse (like having to work on Thanksgiving or cancel a vacation, for example) or it can be a blessing (like when you can say, “oh, I would love to come to your two-year-old’s birthday party, but I have to work”, knowing that your mom-friend will believe it, because most people expect and accept that Biglaw associates always have to work).

7.  If you decide to be a transactional lawyer, there’s a chance that some of your deals will be sexy and you can feel good about yourself when people “ooh” and “aah” when you talk (in very general terms, of course) about those sexy deals at cocktail parties or other social gatherings.  Even better, if you actually like highly (highly, highly, highly) technical, business-y stuff, you might even find your work interesting.  Or at the very least, challenging in a not-completely-painful way.

8.  People assume that lawyers — Biglaw or not — are really smart and capable.  This is what Judith calls the “halo effect”.  All of a sudden, your credibility goes the way of your bank account balance, which is to say UP.  Way UP.  It can be embarrassing in the first couple of years, as you may feel that you don’t deserve all of that goodwill, but it can be satisfying once you grow into it.

9.  It’s likely that your conference rooms are kind of sleek with cool views, so if you try really hard you can pretend that you are a character in a movie and not totally miserable.

10.  There are many instances in which the firm or a client will subsidize your food costs.  In addition to late nights in the office (the best-known basis for Biglaw free food), there are also lesser known skills training sessions, information sessions, meetings and other fairly regular events at which free lunch or hors d’ouvers are served.  Even if you weren’t invited to participate in the event, there are almost always leftovers for scavenging attorneys and support staff.

Now to the eggplant parmigiana.  I went through a phase of tinkering with my aunt’s famous recipe.  On the evening of the first such experiment, and after choking down an entire plate of my creation, my father, forever known for his gentile demeanor, gave his review:  “You know … it’s very g-… it’s very … very … not bad.  Very not bad.”  He later confided that he couldn’t say “very good”, because he doesn’t like to lie to me.  In homage to my father’s honesty, I titled this post “10 Very Not Bad Things About Biglaw”.   I feel better about myself for being fair, but like my father, I don’t want to lie to you.  The truth is that the job isn’t all bad.  On the whole, however, I can’t really say that there’s much for me, personally, that is “very good”.  So for me, it’s on to the next.  For someone else, however, Biglaw may just be the parmesan-and egg-battered, homemade-sauce-coated, eggplant parmigiana of my father’s dreams.


7 Responses to “10 Very Not Bad Things About Biglaw”

  1. I really enjoyed your post and your honesty about law and biglaw in general on your blog. Though I know you personally would rather not spend your life doing it, it’s refreshing to see someone be balanced about the whole subject. I myself don’t want to do biglaw but most people either give me extreme answers of IT’S AWFUL or IT’S THE ONLY KIND OF LAW THAT MATTERS/BENEFITS YOU. So I really appreciated seeing your honest assessment of your experience (especially since half those people who have told me their opinions aren’t even lawyers yet).

    • 2 Samantha Alexander

      Great! I am always happy to help and hope that someone, somewhere, will benefit from my mistakes (even if it takes the form of deciding to take a Biglaw job).

  2. That picture looks truly delicious. If your aunt’s famous recipe turns out anything like that, I wonder if there’s any chance in hell you might be willing to share the recipe?

    Meanwhile, in the spirit of honesty, I figured out that the job you were describing was so boring right off the bat that I simply couldn’t do more but skim a couple of words on each point. No wonder you don’t want to be in this racket anymore. I stopped at one of the points just long enough to notice the compliments you were giving might well be backhanded. Since I couldn’t bring myself to read any of them, I don’t really know for sure. Though the last paragraph would seem to support my hunch. I liked the last paragraph, it talked about the eggplant parmigiana.

    What I do know for sure is that I am enjoying following your blog. Not because you’re able to make the law come alive for me, but because you seem to have a sincere interest in making something worth living out of your life, and not only is such a journey made by anyone interesting, but the appeal of what you obviously don’t like aside, you are good at telling the tale.

    Perhaps the book you write is simply about transformation out of hell, and you might be content with editing a paper or somesuch for steady revenue in the meantime. Does playing with other people’s writing appeal to you at all? Speaking of transformation out of hell by the way, have you looked up my book yet? http://www.bigstyckbooks.com/ Peace!

    • 4 Samantha Alexander

      Tygarjas, you have a book! Congrats and thanks for the link! I printed out the sample this morning and hope to read it tonight.

      Thank you very much for the kind and encouraging words! And the suggestions in your last paragraph are just what I have been thinking. I’m working on a post about that now …

      The trick to the eggplant parm (which, in my father’s eyes, should look nothing like the pictured dish) is to flour the eggplant slices BEFORE you coat them in egg. The second trick is that the egg batter should be about 30% grated parmesan/romano cheese. But neither of those tricks will yield a good eggplant parm unless you make your own sauce. That is the step that I’m currently working on. Unfortuanately, my aunt doesn’t use recipes; otherwise I’d give you one. It’s all approximations — handfuls of this and pinches of that. Very frustrating.

  3. 5 Bro

    You forgot, “Also, you can talk to inspiring clients while simultaneously billing them at $400 an hour for doing so.” 🙂

    • 6 Samantha Alexander

      Yes, although I think that’s more a highlight for the firm than for me. Oh, how I wish I got all of that $400/hr! I probably get more like $15/hr once all is said and done.

  4. hello!This was a really brilliant theme!
    I come from roma, I was luck to look for your topic in google
    Also I get a lot in your website really thanks very much i will come again

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