271 Reviews| Average: 4.5 out of 5
Summary: Learn more about how major law firms are divided into classes and hierarchies in this article.
I lasted five years, and once my student loans were paid off, I got the hell out. It was demoralizing, working like a dog doing mundane work and my vitality was slipping day by day. The hours and stress were killing me.
I got into the office at 8:00 am and left at 10:00 pm every day, plus I would also work one day on the weekends. I would work about 70-80 hours a week. The stress was unbelievable, especially coming from senior associates and partners in the firm. Everyone was biting each other heads off to get ahead. The senior associates viewed you as competition to become a partner and they would treat new associates like slave labor.
[Before I joined] my law firm showed us brochures with smiling associates, promised us interesting work, and the infamous “work life balance” bullshit. It was shocking because you are their slave and then they send you back to your old law school to recruit new people.
In my role as a firm administrator, I endure constant complaints from lawyers about trivial issues. The issues may be real (printers out of ink, conference rooms without the right color of notepads, parking spaces not allocated according to seniority, and the like), yet the treatment of my staff and me can be horrendous. I have never witnessed similar treatment to another lawyer in the firm. So why is it OK to treat ‘non-lawyers’ this way?
My assumption is that this comes from a position of arrogance. If one deems themselves as more capable than everyone else, why would they show them respect and consideration?
Lawyers seem to pride themselves on their ability to tear-down others’ opinions. When a new concept is presented to them, instead of trying to understand the value of it, they focus on the details of the proposal looking for signs of weakness. As an example, in a client proposal, they are more likely to attack the grammar than considering the strategy of the proposed approach. Bad grammar to them is an indication of poor thinking and therefore an indicator that the suggested strategy must be wrong. Looking for ways to disprove every suggestion leads to every suggestion being attacked and rejected. All it takes is two or three lawyers to be involved, and any idea can be torn to shreds. So this combination of arrogance and the tendency to attack instead of understanding makes lawyers poor business people.
To a lot of people in the American economy, $25 an hour might seem like an excellent wage. When you’re chipping away at a mountain of law school debt, however, it can be woefully inadequate.
That’s the situation facing tens of thousands of attorneys who didn’t land the cushy corporate jobs they’d been expecting after graduation or even the type of non-profit gig that might have gotten their debt forgiven. Instead, they are freelancers, working gig by gig with law firms and staffing agencies.
In recent years, their wages have sunk so low that some of those attorneys — in a world where long hours have been treated as dues to be paid on the way to a comfortable career — are asking for the same overtime protections enjoyed by retail clerks and bus drivers.
They argue that the work — combing through all the documents that emerge during the discovery phase of a lawsuit — doesn’t feel like the practice of law. It often takes place in hastily rented review rooms, with attorneys seated side by side, staring at computer screens to pick out pieces that might be relevant to the case. In the name of information security, employers often set rules about phone use, chatter with colleagues, and food consumption.
‘I was told I couldn’t eat a yogurt,’ says Marc Steier, a former contract attorney who now works for a labor union. ‘That’s what’s so disturbing — it’s the absolute disregard. The realities of being employed at most of these agencies are beyond the pale for what most people would consider professional.
271 Reviews| Average: 4.5 out of 5
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