Disgruntled Ex-Lawyers Unite!

Just a short post to congratulate my longtime friend Steve-O on quitting his job at a prestigious Wall Street law firm so that he and his wife can pursue their dream of being scuba instructors somewhere in paradise. 

For those unfamiliar with my background, my first job out of law school (where I met Steve-O) was at a similar firm.  While these places compensate you very well for your services, I found the work wholly unrewarding and discovered that large law firms are where douchebags who are intelligent but are devoid of creativity or personality go to roost (no disrespect to the group of big firm friends reading this, i’m not talking about you). 

Steve-O has been talking about jumping ship (no pun intended) for a long time.  Props to him for giving something else a go.  New York will miss The O, although i’m not too sure he’ll miss New York.

I have added a link on the right side of the page labeled “Team Schmoop,” which is the name of his webpage (also designed and set up by the inimitable Jon Marston).  You can directly link to it here as well.  As you can see, Steve is much better at doing stuff with his website than I am. 

Good luck Steve and Andrea!

14 thoughts on “Disgruntled Ex-Lawyers Unite!

  1. Thanks for the post, Zeit! I’m sure you know that you taking the plunge and being so successful (and so happy) was a huge inspiration for me as I tried to find the courage to make a big change myself.

    Oh, and don’t get too down about your bad January — there are better months and more winnings ahead!

  2. Zeit,

    Glad you are praising the wisdom of kicking the law habit. I’ve been clean since Aug 3, 2003, and have not looked back yet!

    your old office mate!


  3. Some Douche Bags have other responsibilities that don’t allow for them to quit their unrewarding legal jobs and so they find other ways to express their creativity or personality. Still other Douche Bags are somehow able to find some reward to the job. And even other Douche Bags can sometimes adequately express their creativity or personality at their job even though it’s a big firm. Just because your experience wasn’t all you’d hoped, doesn’t mean you should be using such a broad brush to paint such an insulting picture. You’re pursuing your dreams and everybody is proud of you, and we all like reading about it and rooting for you, but you don’t need to take a dump on everybody you left behind.

  4. I did hesitate when I used your chosen moniker (although i’ve never seen my favorite derogatory term parsed into two words before). The fact that I went to a hotshit law school means, by definition, that I have many friends at big law firms. Many close friends who I obviously do not feel are douchebags. My girlfriend also works at a big NY firm. I am disappointed that you’ve chosen to post this anonymously, as I am sure I must know you from either law school or Winston & Strawn, and it would be a lot easier to tailor my reply to a specific individual who in all likelihood I really like (if I know you from Winston, and I actually socialized with you, I probably don’t think you’re a DB, lol).

    It seems that it’s the generalization that you’re offended by. I’m sorry, but my experience at W & S and followup experience as a completely different type of lawyer led me to a very distinct conclusion: big law firm jobs are about, first and foremost, MONEY. I think I am friendly with a grand total of one or two people who earnestly love working at a big firm. But literally 90% of my colleagues were obsessed with their salary and bonus situations. They spent their days on a precursor to modern message boards that was known as “Angry Associates” (i think?) and talked of almost nothing else. I think many of these people lacked personality, and the others had the personality beaten out of them by the awful work, so all they had left to talk about was money.

    I could go on forever on this topic, but I will stop short here for now. I do apologize for being a little bit harsh. Trust me when I say this: (or maybe you already know, Mr./Ms. Anonymous) douchebag is a favorite term of mine and shouldn’t sting so terribly coming from me.

    I do thank you for rooting for me and reading the website.

  5. Having just resigned from my $300,000/year job and a chance at millions down the line if I made partner to make about $20,000 (I hope!) as a scuba diver, I have to agree with everything David said about the vast majority (95-99%) of lawyers at big firms being all about the benjamins.

    I don’t know any associates at my firm that LOVE their job, or that are excited to wake up for work on any given day (or any day at all). No one grows up as a kid thinking “I want to do commercial litigation”, or “I want to be a securitization lawyer”. If you did, you needed to get out a bit more. Those of us who grew up wanting to be lawyers most likely did so because they had ideals or wanted to make a difference in some way. But the reality is that when you get out of law school and you’re $100,000 in debt, the public defender’s office isn’t as attractive as the $160,000 they are now paying FIRST YEAR ASSOCIATES at the big firms. You get lured in by the money, and then they lock on the golden handcuffs. It’s only a rare few that can get free. I’m happy for both David and myself that we’ve been able to.

    By the way, do you know why they pay first year associates $160,000? And why they pay seventh or eighth year associates over $300,000 per year? It’s because they HAVE TO! It’s because the job sucks, and the lifestyle sucks, and the job sucks the soul out of you, and no one would take a job like that if it only paid $50,000.

    Now, as to “Douche Bag’s” reply, I agree very strongly with what he said in his first sentence, that many people have other responsibilities that don’t let them leave their unrewarding job. I consider myself very lucky that my circumstances have been just right to allow me to take this chance and to not worry about money or employment. Not everyone is so lucky, and believe me, I know what a blessing it is. But as you say, those people have to find other ways to express their creativity or to find happiness. And there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with finding other things in your life that make you happy outside of work, and taking pleasure in those things.

    In that regard, I believe you are correct that “douchebag” is the wrong name to use for all the people who stay at their jobs for the money. What you really are is a whore. I’d say a cheap whore, but there’s nothing cheap about you. You’re bending over and taking it in the ass every single day, all for the sake of your paycheck. And at least a prostitute gets sex out of the deal — you just get some dusty old partner fucking you by making you work nights and weekends, pushing your blood pressure up and your life expectancy down. But as I said before, at least you’re a well paid whore! So when you wake up tomorrow, be sure to pack that industrial size tube of KY, and use a little bit of it to ease the pain of missing your wife’s birthday dinner because you’re working, or telling little billy or jenny or whatever your kid’s name is that you’ll have to cancel another weekend activity because your boss wants that memo on his desk Monday morning. Oh, and in addition to making that reaming more bearable, KY makes a good scalp wax after you’ve lost all your hair from the stress of the job. Now stop reading the internet and get ready to order dinner to eat at your desk as you continue to bend over for the allmighty dollar. Whore!

    Sorry for the long reply, but I’m actually really excited — if this scuba diving thing doesn’t work out, i honestly believe I have the chops to make it as a manager for bad-guy wrestlers! :-p

  6. For the record, I’m neither a whore nor a douche-bag (nor was I the anonymous poster by the way). I’m risk averse, which is what happens when as a child you see an entire city of people who’d worked 20 years of their life for an auto company get kicked to the corner for nothing (this would be the middle manager types, not the union schlubs). You look for something with a little job security when you see that in your formative years.

  7. I agree with Douche Bag in that sometimes you have responsibilities that don’t allow you to just jump ship for a tropical paradise or a career as a poker player and so you are forced to make the best of your situation. I also agree with Wayne that there is something to be said for steady employment and a minimum of 300k per year for as long as you want to do it; that would be the subject of envy of billions of people around the world. But I also agree with David and Steve when they say that being a lawyer sucks. It can suck hairy balls and I could go for hours counting the ways. But finally, I think I see where Douche Bag was coming from – for those of you that have managed to pull yourself from the admitted slag and found happiness, it doesn’t make those you left behind feel good when you rail on how horrible their life is back at the firm. We enjoy living vicariously through you and we share your passions and your happiness, but damn dude, we already know our jobs suck, why do you have to rub it in?

  8. Internet drama! On my very own website!

    I respect and appreciate the points made by DB, Steve, HoW and 7. I will add the following:

    I was disillusioned at my corporate law job from Day 1. Well, maybe not Day 1, but honestly I grew very unhappy within the first week of my employment. Lawyering is a service industry, but at a large firm, you immediately lose sight of who it is you’re servicing. I can only speak from the litigation side of things (I never did any corporate work and I still don’t know exactly what corporate lawyers do; to the best of my knowledge, they draft and re-work complex commercial contracts, which, with all due respect, sounds even worse than what I did), but you totally lose track of (or worse, totally disagree with) whatever you are trying to accomplish when your client is a big corporate entity.

    For me personally, it became depressing when the only way my job could be rewarding was when I’d receive a raise or a bonus. There was zero feedback from a human client. “Client contact” at a big firm seems to be defined as attending a meeting or participating in a teleconference with people who work at the corporation you’re representing. Cold.

    My story has turned out to be atypical because I have been very fortunate in several respects. First, I had no student loans. My parents are not super wealthy, but they insisted on paying for my entire education, including law school. So once I was out of school, I therefore had no incentive to hang around at the firm, “buy in” to the firm’s mentality, or even pretend that I gave a shit about a job I hated.

    After I got fired, I was once again very fortunate. Because I had no loans, I was not under extreme financial hardship. Instead of having to scramble to find a new lawyering job, I briefly tried to find work as a writer. Then, through a friend of my father’s, I got involved in a case defending low-income tenants of a rent-stablized project against their corporate landlord. I was pitted against a couple of “douchebags” from a large NYC firm, and after meeting with my real live clients, I found myself very motivated. I ended up winning a motion for a preliminary injunction. This ruffled a lot of coporate feathers, both the landlord’s and the big firm’s, and for the first time in my career, I actually looked satisfied clients in the eye. At one point I received a huge ovation from a large auditorium full of people. Totally gratifying.

    And with that, I discovered that maybe it was the big firm that sucked, not my occupation. I joined my father’s criminal defense/general practice (once again, I was very fortunate, because I didn’t have to apply for this job) and I began doing real lawyering. I apologize for using the term “real,” but with all due respect, the lawyering that went on at the big firm was total bullshit compared to what I did over the course of the next few years. I can say with near certainty that even though I am currently a poker player and not even practicing law, I am a better courtroom attorney than all but perhaps a handful of the people in the litigation department at Winston & Strawn. Why? Because I was thrown into the fire and actually did something useful. As best I can tell, litigation partners and associates at large firms are experts at drafting pointless motions and wasting their client’s and our judicial system’s resources. They are not good at much else, despite making a gazillion dollars a year.

    I did everything in the three years I spent with my father: criminal law, family law, bankruptcy, civil litigation on all sorts of bizarre cases… It was way better than my previous job, but also way more stressful.

    And then, yet again, I discovered how fortunate I am. I had been getting into poker and I found out that I have an innate skill at the game. It’s actually an innate skill at strategic games in general.

    As a total aside to House of Wayne and my other Tecmo friends from law school: the reason I was so hard to beat at Super Tecmo Bowl is that the playbook creation/play selection screen is really just an intermediate-level game theory matrix involving adaptive strategies. Even though I couldn’t explain this at the time, I was very good at solving the puzzles presented by the 8-play format. One day I want to write an essay on Super Tecmo Bowl and why it is such an amazing two-player game.

    I understand that most people are not as fortunate as I have been (and, as Seven pointed out, one might argue that simply landing a job at any big law firm puts you in a special, “fortunate” category). But to those of you who are financially secure enough to work for less than $300,000 per year and are genuinely dissatisfied at “the firm”: there is a lot of lawyering out there that doesn’t suck. I don’t understand why more people don’t explore those options. Hanging around at a job you hate for no apparent reason might not make you a douchebag, but it definitely is sad.

  9. Wow, what controversy! I hope that people were able to sense the humor in my previous reply. Many readers of this site are my friends, and I obviously don’t think they are whores.

    High priced escorts, maybe, but not whores. :-p

  10. So, in other words, David, you’re a fortunate fellow?

    Anyway, not being a lawyer I can comment very little on the situations discussed above, however, for three years I was a paralegal at a large law firm and soon after being hired, I became the protagonist from the movie “Office Space,” a man that despised waking up in the morning because he had to go to job that held little value for him. I can only imagine the difficulty that must come with having that feeling and not being able to do anything about it because of financial considerations.

    Best of luck to you.

  11. Making a break for it..Worked 7 years for a douche bag PI lawyer…carried water and watched as he cocktail houred himself to death….went solo…Picked up a huge mortgage broker as a client and ran my ass off in circles for 5 years trying to keep them pleased….the industry crashed in time to drain my savings just like it drained my marriage… as I forged ahead on family law scraps and an occasional estate…a few Malpractice cases saving my butt…I knew I was wasting my life…till now….I’m done…it’s not the absense of handcuffs… its the sick feeling I get every time I see a lawyer commercial and realize it is about the money….I have done enough to have made my parents proud…that was really all I wanted…now to make me happy….broke…in debt…but happy….It is not easier to walk away when it’s not working in litigatorville…it’s mandatory…God was good …he heard me groaning and set me free…..sailing away….down sized…divorced …with a new love and the rest of my life ahead….see you in the Grenandines.. I’ll be the one laughing too loud and kissing the pretty girl on my lap….run for the elevator all you rich …dead lawyers…time is short….your life is calling…

  12. Pingback: Legal Training as a Failure of Higher Education | Improving Higher Education

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