Seriously, was it when compensation crossed the $200K threshold? Because honestly, if firms knew that was all it took to buy this level of obsequious devotion, they’d have made that investment years ago. It’s a cheap outlay for this kind of loyalty.
Let’s take a step back.
No one’s suggesting associates can’t have a certain esprit de corps when it comes to the firm. I always liked my firms. But I didn’t fool myself into believing that this profession as a whole isn’t riddled with screamers and nightmare bosses. There’s a line between hard work and navigating stressful tasks and getting abused. Associates generally recognize that line.
Which brings us to a recent exchange on Reddit, where you’d expect all the most satisfied and happy-go-lucky lawyers to congregate. A Bloomberg Law reporter recently braved the trek to r/biglaw to ask for some help on an upcoming story.
On the one hand, this is an entirely reasonable ask of a community of Biglaw lawyers sharing their experiences. On the other hand, it’s a reasonable request of the Internet, so…
Horror stories abound, and we hear more of them than we can ever possibly write up. But associates are also leery of handing them out for publication because the specific details almost always give away their identity. Happy associate stories are all alike; every unhappy associate story is horrifyingly tragic in its own way.
That’s why you can’t really go fishing for those sorts of stories in this industry, you just have to wait for them to come to you. It’s worth noting that this is the same Bloomberg team that breathlessly reported that Sidley had jacked up associate salaries by misreading the firm’s class year promotion memo, an error that other outlets immediately piled onto while we at Above the Law screamed from the sidelines that none of this was actually happening, so there are some nuances of how this industry works that they still need to get a handle on.
So it seems like asking the curmudgeons at Reddit for help is a good idea though one unlikely to turn up much but crickets.
Still, as they say on the ole internets, “you won’t believe what happened next”:
I honestly did not have “Redditors talk about how much they love their bosses” on my bingo card. Do your bosses have surveillance software installed or something? If you can’t speak freely say, “Frankly, I don’t think law schools charge enough.”
On the other hand, perhaps this was the most Redditor of all responses. A reporter asked in good faith for some assistance and the community dropped everything to be as obstinately contrarian as possible.
You know how we know these folks are the exception and not the rule? The massively active lateral market.
Temper the insular self-absorption. Just because you’re a gunner who thinks “I get paid well enough to excuse anything” doesn’t mean you’re the norm. If this request doesn’t apply to you, just get out of the way.
Calling these stories “sensationalist”? How do these people think websites make money?
Yep, it’s all about those pageviews that keep us swimming in all the whale oil that keeps the lights on! Shockingly, getting a couple bucks per 1,000 views is lovely but it isn’t getting the job done in journalism.
Horror stories aren’t about shock value, but sharing a (hopefully appreciated) big picture perspective on an industry that too often cloisters itself. Stories like these help firms realize that the screamers aren’t all “gone” and senior lawyers realize how their behavior unintentionally comes across. And for the rare instance of a firm that really has built a perfect working environment, these stories give them an opportunity to pat themselves on the back.
If the practice of law is more humane today, a good part of that progress stems from sites shining a light on these stories. As for positive stories, it’s true that “no one yelled at me today” isn’t a publishable story. But there are positive law firm stories that journalists highlight when those stories help others in the industry make the practice of law better.
The legal industry is bigger than your experience. If you don’t have horror stories, then good for you. That doesn’t mean they aren’t out there and a lot more valuable than your “my job is ACCEPTABLE!” takes.
Though it may be worth exploring the tip about how happy you are to be working 9 to 7 in Biglaw. That would actually generate some pageviews since it’s a fucking fairy tale.
Big Law horror stories? [Reddit r/biglaw]
Joe Patrice is a senior editor at Above the Law and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. Feel free to email any tips, questions, or comments. Follow him on Twitter if you’re interested in law, politics, and a healthy dose of college sports news. Joe also serves as a Managing Director at RPN Executive Search.