THE STANKOWSKI REPORT #11: Getting Down to Work
by Stan Stankowski
I creep through traffic. I am observant and clever. I see an opening a little bit ahead in the lane to the left. That lane is moving so much faster. I sneak in. Outstanding. I watch as the lane I just transitioned from begins to move twice as fast as my new lane. Shit.
And in a way, I realize this is a little like my career. The law is like no other industry. You go to school, where, bizarrely, after one year, you begin interviewing for jobs for three years later. These interviews are great. The people promise you lots of money, a powerful job and other various perks. Tickets, fancy meals, zero problems with your insurance carriers.... (seriously, pass the bar and watch how quickly those bastards back down, it's astounding).
And then, after years of work and sacrifice you get there. And really, there are many, many good things about it. The work environment is nice, you have plenty of money in the bank and honestly, the little perks are probably better than when you were a summer associate. The partners give you more tickets, you go to more ridiculously expensive lunches. When you bitch about your small, or for that matter large, European automobile giving you problems, people don't respond with a smart assed "Yeah, I wish I had your problems." Instead, they are genuinely upset that said European Automobile is out of commission. In fact, the same thing happened to them last week.
However, after a little while, lunch is just lunch. This realization is reminiscent of a similar feeling one gets in about fifth or sixth grade. As I recall, it is sometime in fifth or sixth grade that one realizes that the teacher or the coach bringing in ice cream, streamers and a cake with grocery-store produced fluff (i.e., icing) isn't really all that cool. Basically, instead of slapping your peeps on the back and pumping the fist when a party is announced, you realize it isn't that big a deal. In fact, now that you think about it, the cake sucks and the beverages are always warm due to lack of ice (or your unwillingness to hold up the line for three minutes while you chip off a few flecks).
That is almost what practicing law is like. There is a lot of stress, a lot of work and a lot of negativity. There are intervals of money, fancy lunches and fancy cars. However, one day, you look around and realize that none of that is really all that special. Hell, MBA's get most of that crap.
And then you get down to work. Because that is what lawyers do. However, the minute you start to do work and get serious, you realize that the law doesn't give you very much time. Try, at most, ten years. In other industries, ten years is an icebreaker. That is when you can start talking about experience. But not now and not you. You are a lawyer at a ritzy firm. You have ten years. Make partner, or get out. The pyramid must stay wider at the bottom.
The strange thing is that my job has not been threatened, indeed, people seem very pleased with me at the moment. What is weird is that you have to go through world's of shit to get to this place. Even weirder, that world of shit only bought you a decade. You see it happen to other people on a monthly basis. They leave, try to smile, but they aren't very pleased about the upheaval. And why should they be? Hell, everyone wants to deal with never ending competition.
Awesomely enough, the prize is ... competition. "There must be a worse fate" many of you may be thinking. Well, that may be true. You might make partner. Then, when you are in the office at 10 p.m. for the fourth night in a row, you can look at the associate who is working diligently by your side and say "I have only taken two vacations in the thirty years I have been practicing law." And then, because you work a lot, the associate will be impressed. You can also throw in a reference to how many hours you put in last month And again, the associate will be impressed. Why? Because everyone who goes to college for seven years wants to clock their days in six minute increments. That, my friend, is real power. Silly blue collar workers only get to clock in and out twice a day.
Hey, hold on. I think this car is going to let me over.
Author's Note: Yes, this post may seem depressing. Nonetheless, I do enjoy many things about my job on a daily basis.
About the Author: Stan Stankowski is the pseudonym of a first-year associate working in a litigation firm somewhere in the South. For more details, read his introductory post, as well as Evan Schaeffer's introduction. The collected Stankowski Reports are here.