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Archive for October, 2011

If it’s happened to you, keep reading. If it hasn’t, keep reading anyway. It happens a lot.

It begins with the standard set-up. You feel trapped. Hate your life. Nerves shot. Self-esteem shredded. You know the drill: biglaw.

That’s when the dæmon lover appears. It doesn’t end well.

There’s biglaw hanky-panky and biglaw sexual harassment. There’s also biglaw romantic infatuation. It’s the one you talk about least because you least feel like talking about it. Once you reemerge on the other side and wish it never happened, you never feel like talking about it again.

It’s no coincidence life-crushing, soul-annihilating infatuations collide on a regular basis with the lives of young associates – any more than cars colliding with deer on an expressway is a coincidence if you locate the expressway in the path of the herd’s migration. Life-crushing, soul-annihilating infatuation is the logical outcome of life-crushing, soul-annihilating law firm existence.

The firm swallows your life, denies you sleep and vacation, works you into the ground, and subjects you to an endless stream of criticism. You got there in the first place because you’re a pleaser – the kid who earned “A’s” to please teacher. Now you can’t please anyone.

Enter the dæmon lover. He gets you when you don’t love yourself – when you hate yourself. That’s infatuation – not falling in love, but hating yourself so much you try to escape your own identity by merging into someone else.

For some reason, he’s British. I’m not saying he has to be British, but three of my clients – by some stroke of fate – ended up obsessed with British guys at their firms. Oh, and I did, too. So we’ll make him British.

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As The People’s Therapist, my door is always open. I don’t turn away poor clients.

“Pay whatever you can afford,” I tell them.

Naturally, they get what they pay for. If I’m a little sleepy, or staring at the clock – who are they to complain? Come to think of it, why do we have to talk about them all the time anyway…

Just kidding.

But let’s be real – are things any different with the the high-fidelity first-class traveling set than they are with folks flying “comfort class”? I ask myself that question a lot. I do it to stay honest.

For one thing, my wealthy clients – mostly partners at big firms – pay a lot more, which means they literally pay my rent. That means something. Therapy can feel conspiratorial, too – you tell your therapist everything. So when I’m on duty in the Platinum Elite Lounge, I’m aware I’m also pow-wowing with a supremely powerful boss making life-shattering decisions affecting my clients on the other end of the socioeconomic spectrum.

But I have to be everyone’s therapist. That’s my job. I’m consciously working two sides of a divide.

The following is not an unusual scenario: I spend fifty minutes with a JD two years out of law school who’s making $25 per hour doing doc review – all to eke out monthly payments on a $170k financial carcinoma euphemistically termed a “school loan.” Five minutes later, in the same chair, I face a senior partner who brings in $2.8 million every twelve months. I witness abrupt social discordance at least once a week. Welcome to my world.

One of my wealthiest clients, a hypothetical composite who claims half of a large law firm as a personal asset, explained to me an especially profitable element of his firm’s business:

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I was hiking in Iceland this past summer. We were pretty high up – around 1,000 meters – and it was raining hard, high wind, snow on the ground.

“Damn, it’s cold,” grumbled one of my American companions.

An Englishman behind us stumbled over a patch of frozen volcanic ash. “There’s a clue in the name, mate,” he offered helpfully.

Some things are so obvious they really don’t need to be explained anymore. Like it’s icy in Iceland. Like it sucks working at a big law firm. You kinda ought to know that by now…

…which is why interviewing 2L’s feels so heart-breaking.

I should know, I’ve been listening to senior and mid-level associates for the past month, telling me how much it sucks interviewing 2L’s.

Why? Because if you hate them, you’re interviewing someone you hate. And if you like them…then you feel a moral obligation to clue them in on the hellish misery they’re clambering to claim for themselves.

It’s hard not to hate law students, especially from the vantage point of a senior or mid-level associate. They’re clueless, and yes, many conform to the worst stereotypes. There’s always the tall dork who wears a suit to class and raises his hand to ask obvious, meandering questions. There’s the girl with hair dangling over her face, who trails the professor after class to smarm, in her peculiarly nasal voice, over the subtle charms of today’s lecture. We all hate them.

One of my senior associate clients reserves her remaining tolerance for part-time law students. “At least they’ve got a clue,” she says. Maximum disdain is reserved for the full-timers who slid into law school directly out of undergrad, scribbling their name on loan documents like so many fevered lemmings racing to be the first off a ledge.

The worst story I’ve heard so far came from a mid-level associate, miserable and deeply in debt, who interviewed the obnoxious 2L son of a huge corporate client’s CEO. While this over-privileged sack of ordure grinned in his preppy suit and barely bothered answering her questions, she returned to an old fantasy of firing a pistol into her mouth in the firm’s dining room, taking special care to splatter the head of litigation.

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The new book is available as an ebook or paperback via Amazon Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: The Lawyer’s Quest for Meaning and BN.com and as an ebook in the Apple ibookstore.

Sorry for the wait.

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