Of Counsel

Legal Notes on Georgia and The South

Lifestyle is a Bad Word

Posted by Maggie on November 29, 2007

Scott over at Simple Justice writes occasionally about Biglaw. Many of us, including yours truly are in more of a Littlelaw kind of world. Small offices, focused practices, and often a good amount of success. Most of the criminal defense bloggers you’ll find are either PD’s or in Littlelaw. Sometimes it seems the two sides are at odds with each other.

Sometimes over in our side of the profession it feels like Biglaw is the only thing that exists. Huge offices, hundreds of attorneys, giant corporate clients. (I’ve complained before that The Daily Report for Fulton County routinely ignores the existence of any other kind of practice.) My feelings on Biglaw were refined a few years ago when I dated one of the drones of Biglaw. (It’s long over and I’m happily hitched to a non-lawyer.) I was suddenly his date to all the firm functions and it was the weirdest thing ever. We had dinners with his co-workers, who complained about their divorces, missed vacations and new fancy gadgets. I couldn’t understand how they didn’t see that their jobs were slowly but surely destroying their lives. My one big realization was that these firms have to encourage socialization, it creates a hive kind of mentality where your life may suck, but hey so does everyone’s. It makes it feel like it’s all normal.

Not all firms are like that. Some of them have employees who are actually happy, though paid at a rate slightly below the insane figures paid by Biglaw. (Yeah, they barely scrape by, those “lifestyle” guys.) A lifestyle firm meant you got to see your kids at night. But apparently this has become a bad thing. Arent Fox in DC has decided they no longer want to be known as a lifestyle firm. They got that reputation after–shocker–their employees claimed to be happy. Now they’ve told employees to remind recruits that they “work hard” and “make a lot of money.”

I apologize, but if Biglaw wants a little more respect, they need to act in such a way as to deserve that respect. Work hard, do well, that’s fine. Recruit “aggressive talent,” whatever. But this kind of talk, along with all the salary raises for 1st years, does nothing to help the profession. And it makes me happier to be a member of Littlelaw.

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