THE STANKOWSKI REPORT #29: How the Stresses of the Job Can Turn Law-Firm Associates into Full-Fledged Lawyers
by Stan Stankowski
Well here we are again. It has been too long since I threatened the foundations of Ted’s reality. Therefore, I need to reappear on the scene.
As best I can tell there have been two main reasons for the absence: (1) I have been traveling more than a damned hobo in search of his next can of baked bean goodness; and (2) I think that you eventually reach some area of numbness in this job that deadens the senses a little bit. That stifles writing to some degree.
I don’t think that Opinionista or Blachman really hung on long enough to get to that point, so let me explain it to you. At first, you get yelled at a lot and people are generally unpleasant. You are doing a bunch of shit that is pretty intimidating and you are under extreme time pressure. It is very harrowing.
However, much like any other sort of minor trauma, you eventually get used to it, a bit like an old guy with a bad back; it twinges a lot, but you know enough to not move in a direction where it will really put you out of commission for a week. You just kind of live with it. To over-analogize, it is a lot like public speaking. Nobody really likes it at first, but then, you get to a point where it absolutely has to be done. You are in moot court, or at a business presentation and all of a sudden someone calls your name and you are at the podium, you are freaking out, but then, you suddenly realize that you have no choice but to speak, and so you do. It’s almost like all the nerves and anxiety that could possibly be built up have been accumulated, and you realize it isn’t changing anything, so you just talk. And it works out for you. Always. If it doesn’t you haven’t reached the point where the consequences of non-performance are more severe then the threat of having to perform.
And that’s a bit how this job works. You fear fucking up, you hate getting yelled at when you don’t and you are constantly anxious and agitated, and worried about losing your job and then one day, it just gets the point when someone is yelling at you about something you can’t or couldn’t control, and reach the point of ultimate point of anxiety and instead of apologizing or throwing up you just say “Well, what the fuck did you want me to do.”
99% of the time, when you have reached that point, and actually say it, the partner or senior associate will reply “Yeah, I don’t know what I would’ve done.” And all of a sudden, you are an adult again, talking to another adult, and the whole equation changes.
Don’t get me wrong, its not that the stress or anxiety disappear; instead, you just realize that there is only so much you can do, and then you do it. And if some one gets pissed, but you did all you could do, then you don’t really give a shit, you just want to know what has to be done to fix it. The weird thing is that the people above you intuitively realize this, and their attitude towards you changes, and things just crank along. It's like a combat vet recognizing another in a bar. You just both know. Without the selfless sacrifice.
This doesn’t mean that it gets to be all fun and games, but it is a little different, and it lets you get a little numb. That leads to a little better legal product, and a little less emotional anxiety about your future. In turn, you get a little bit of control back in your mental life, if not your physical life.
I don’t know if that makes it better or worse. In the meantime, I am platinum on at least two airlines, and I can recommend a restaurant in at least six cities.
About the Author: Stan Stankowski is the pseudonym of a lawyer working as an associate 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.