My client – a second year corporate associate working in a foreign office – compared remaining at her biglaw firm to eating cockroaches.
“You know, on one of those reality game shows where they dare you to eat a bucket of cockroaches and they’ll pay you a million bucks if you do.”
I requested she elaborate.
“My point is, at some juncture you stop and think – and this is probably a rational part of your brain: Hell, for a million bucks, I’ll do it. I mean, for a million bucks, you’ll do anything, so long as you can get it over with in a minute or two. The plan is to keep repeating in your head a million dollars a million dollars a million dollars until – bingo! – all done, and you’re rich.”
Alas, there’s a wrinkle.
“It should only take a minute or two to eat a bucket of cockroaches. You hold your breath, close your eyes, keep swallowing, and a minute later you’re a millionaire.”
“Then you realize it’s not so easy. The problem is, once you’re actually there, faced with the situation, you can’t get them down. Maybe one or two cockroaches, but then you’re gagging, and it all comes back up. And then you’re on all fours puking your guts out with half a bucket left to eat and you realize this might not work out as planned. You can think to yourself – I can do this, I can do this…a million bucks, a million bucks…but the fact is, you can’t pull it off.”
Why does eating a bucket of cockroaches serve as an apt metaphor for working in biglaw? Because at some point in many lawyers’ careers, you’ve paid off – or mostly paid off – the loans. And you know you’re not sticking around for much longer, because you hate it more than anything you’ve ever hated before in your life – it’s literally unbearable. On the other hand, without the loans, you are faced more starkly than ever before with the reality of why you pursued a career in the legal profession in the first place: Money.
Remember money? That was the whole point. Back when you thought a law degree could actually earn you some.