How to Feed a Lawyer (and Other Irreverent Observations from the Legal Underground)

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You forgot one thing, fear.

Your partners, or coworkers, will provide that.

"70 hours? Good old Smith is working 80 hours?"

"70 hours? Gee, Simpson only worked that and now is out the door, not that this would apply to you?"

"70 hours? Alright! Glad you are busy too, I worked 90 hours this week. Jones said at least one associate around here was getting his time in."

"70 hours? I heard the new requirement was 80 hours."

Eh Nonymous

"Oh, you hadn't heard? They boosted the quota to 9100 hours a year... but that's really the bare minimum. Nobody likes someone who only does the minimum..."

(for those who are bad at math: 25 x 7 x 52 = 9100)


70 hours sucks, I totally agree with you on that, but when I was a corporate paralegal I often worked 80-100 hour weeks. There are a few other things you need:

1) Extra toilet kit with deoderent. Fortunately the firm had a shower you could use so if you took the shower, had a change of underwear and some toothpaste you were good to go.

2) Screw the t-shirt. Gym cloths. When I am in the office at 3am doing whatever I am going to be comfortable. I want yoga pants and a tank top with a sweatshirt. No one ever complains. I change back into the suit when the sun comes up.

3) Pillow and blanket. Seriously. On corporate deals you are often waiting for documents to be returned from proofing or duplicating. Many partners had nice comfy couches in their offices. I would take my blankie and pillow and hunker down. That, or the couch cusions in the ladies bathroom couch came off. I would place them in my office on the floor and put the phone next to my head. You need to get any sleep you can.

4) Wasabi peas. They'll wake you up.



Clearly you are insane. I would never agree to do that as an attorney much less a paralegal.

Maybe it is just good that I am not transactional.

The Sardonic Lawyer

A few more things you'll need to survive:

(1) Willingness to bill secretary/paralegal time as your own. I once worked for a firm where an upper-level associate was on vacation in the Bahamas one week as still billed 40 hours of time, based on his secretary opening his mail.

(2) Ability to double-bill. Try working on one client's case while traveling for another client, or take your laptop along to some depositions and work on a few documents while your there.

(3) "Value billing" opportunities. The more often you can tell a secretary to generate discovery by searching-and-replacing party names, then bill 3.0 hours for it, the better. Cf. "Willingness to bill secretary/paralegal time as your own," above.

Now, The Sardonic Lawyer realizes that some attorneys either can't or won't take advantage of one or more of the above (although, if you would take advantage of one, The Sardonic Lawyer does not see a logical reason why you wouldn't take advantage of all three since they are equivalent from an ethical perspective, and to paraphrase Martin Luther: if you're going to sin, sin boldly). For those of you in the can't/won't camp, there's still hope. You may survive a year or two, then go to a firm with more realistic expectations. You may be involved in a traumatic accident, which either alters your neurological makeup so you no longer require sleep, or leaves you disabled so you can continue working for the firm with lowered hours and no fear of being fired because of the protections afforded by the ADA (Note: this does not apply if you are in the 5th Circuit). You may discover some information useful for blackmailing one or more partners. Or, if all else fails, you may work yourself to death (I believe the Japanese call this karoshi) relatively early in the process, sparing yourself untold hours of fear, loathing, and misery.



It was the go-go 90s and I was paid time and a half. In addition, for every 19 hours straight I worked I got an extra day off. It meant I was able to take 3 and a half weeks off when I got married and went on my honeymoon.

I would never do it now on any kind of regular basis. But it does still come up on occasion.


I assume #4 does not apply to women either? (But we do need to stock up on pantyhose.)


Can I ask an honest question please--is working 70 hours per week a realistic figure? Do lawyers really work that much at the major law firms? I can't imagine how a human being can sustain those kind of hours for 50 weeks. I hope it's only occasionally, or that you're pulling our leg, and that the real average is closer to 40-50? Say it ain't so . . .



It goes up and down a little bit. Usually one week a month will be more like 50. Of course, the next week may well be 90. So, hard to say.

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