The Deadliest Sin?

March 19, 2009 by  

lt-envy2-fullA few things are bound to happen when you spend 76 straight hours closing a bond offering in a windowless office the size of a handicap toilet stall, eating nothing but stale candy corn from a nearby vending machine and fantasizing about unconsciousness.  First, you make peace with the fact that showers are for people far luckier than you.  Second, you start obsessively calculating what your hourly salary might be compared to, say, a teenage babysitter or a shoe-shine guy.  Maybe you start to hallucinate a bit.   Or wonder if it’s possible to slit your wrists with a stack of post-its.  And then, finally, you catch sight of your pale, desperate reflection in the desktop monitor and you realize the pathetic, obvious, predictable truth: You’re wildly jealous of the people your firm recently laid off.

Don’t get me wrong, when it became obvious that my firm was conducting another round of layoffs, I wasn’t hoping to be axed.  My day-to-day may indeed be a perverse merry-go-round of corporate inanity, bruising ego slams, romantic nonstarters, and bleak yearnings for my pre-BigLaw life, but when the time comes to end this cycle of misery, I want to do it on my own terms.  Preferably with health insurance.  So, when I found out that I wasn’t one of the Laid Off, I wasn’t disappointed—but I wasn’t exactly pleased, either.  More than anything, I was just relieved that the waiting was over.

But now, in the aftermath of the layoffs, I can’t help but wonder if that relief was misplaced.   If morale at my firm was low before the latest slaughter, the atmosphere now is pretty much unbearable.  Within a matter of days, most of us went from billing a few hours a day, tops, to not being at the office for a few hours a day, tops.  And yes, I get it, it’s BigLaw—it’s not supposed to be a day-spa experience, in any economy—but now, now, we’re supposed to be extra-super grateful for the sadistic pace.  We’re supposed to bend over cheerily and smile while the firm’s powers-that-be alternately punish us, and then expect gratitude for, the very fact that we still have jobs.  In the past few weeks, even the most docile partners I work with have had a taunting, lupine shine in their eyes every time they’ve doled out work on a Friday at 6 p.m., or announced an absurdly artificial deadline, or passed me in the hall at 5 p.m. as they were heading home and I was rounding midday. Just yesterday, one asked me if I was free to help on a new matter—and when I responded that 100% of my time was already committed, I could hear his smirk through the phone as he asked me to “define 100%.” (Note: you’re screwed no matter how you answer this one.) Now, regardless of how ridiculous, how unreasonable, how idiotic the demands of some prick partner may be, the subtext is the same: “Don’t like it? What are you gonna do—leave?”

And that’s just it.  I’m not going to leave.  Not now, anyway.  Call me stiflingly risk-averse, call me masochistic, call me addicted to the ability to pay my rent, but I’ll admit that I just don’t have the balls (well, literally and figuratively) to ups and quit in a depression.  I know, I know—I understand the whole “leave-now-because-before-you-know-it-you’ll-be-37-and-still-toiling-away-at-a-job-you-hate” argument.  And hell, I’m ready to take a pay cut and move out of BigLaw right now to a job that might let me have a life and a shot at not being miserable—if that job existed anymore. Back in the day, I’d have been able to slide into pretty much any low-key legal job I wanted at this point.  But now?  Now, ex-BigLaw players are dialing down their resumes and duking it out for night-shift doc review temp jobs.  And still getting dinged.  My problem isn’t the golden handcuffs themselves; it’s that I just can’t find the goddamn keys to take them off.

And this is where the recent casualties of BigLaw layoffs may actually have one up on those of us who haven’t (yet) been shown the door.  Well, OK, first let’s have a quick reality check—I know that being laid off is hideous and traumatic.  I don’t envy my laid-off colleagues for their uncertainty over where their next paycheck may be coming from, or their stagnant mountains of student debt, or their cringing awareness that a few months’ severance runs out all too soon.  I’m not delusional.  But I will say that whether or not the Laid Off were ready to ditch those golden handcuffs, at least they’re off.  They’re off.  Unlike those of us still racking up insane hours doing work we can’t stand for manipulative sadists, whining about how miserable we are, but acknowledging that we’re too afraid to leave, the Laid Off aren’t stuck in this catch-22.  They don’t have to fantasize about having free time to see their families, or finish that screenplay, or backpack through Thailand, or sleep in for a week or three; they can actually just go do it.  Sure, that freedom comes with its own set of crippling anxieties, but the immediate point is: They don’t need to worry about wrangling up the courage to make that leap out of BigLaw—they’re already out.  That alone is worth a little envy, no matter how they got there.

So, at the end of the day, who are the bigger suckers in this situation?  I don’t really know—all I do know is that a few days after my firm’s latest layoffs, I found myself stuck in a conference room at 3 a.m., alone, eating three-day-old chicken parm with my fingers out of an aluminum tin, waiting for comments on the nine-hundredth draft of a mind-crushingly boring document that no one but me and about six other lawyers cares about or will ever read, wracked with stomach-churning anxiety that my life is passing me by just so that I can help make some CEO I’ll never meet more money than I’ll ever know in my lifetime.  Is that really any less humiliating—or more enviable—than being…laid off from that job?  Tell you what: If I ever find myself in a position to learn the answer firsthand, I promise I’ll let you know.  Right after I get back from Thailand.

An excerpt of this essay is also being published today on everyone’s favorite legal tabloid, Above the Law.  Make sure to check it out here!


55 Responses to “The Deadliest Sin?”

  1. jones on March 19th, 2009 5:41 am

    Next time, pick LUST.

  2. Bill Dugan on March 19th, 2009 7:17 am

    I think this beeotch oughta be happy she’s still bringing home a paycheck. But I think what she really needs is a real guy to come home to every nite who can cuddle with her when she needs it, but also to give her a daily roll in the hay that is exhausting to the point she gets rid of all of her negativity. Like my Uncle Mo used to say, “there’s nothing so terrible in the world that a cosmic F***k won’t cure!”

  3. Anonymous on March 19th, 2009 8:44 am

    “Beeotch”? Really?

  4. Anonymous on March 19th, 2009 9:26 am

    “They don’t have to fantasize about having free time to see their families, or finish that screenplay, or backpack through Thailand, or sleep in for a week or three; they can actually just go do it.”

    If you’re supporting a family or even trying to make rent you can’t do any of these things.

  5. Pity Party on March 19th, 2009 9:35 am

    No time for family, but enough time to write a dumb blog about how busy you are…

  6. Anonymous on March 19th, 2009 10:33 am

    I love this site but every time I read a new post I ask why do you put yourself through this garbage? I passed on a biglaw job and I’m sweating it for DA jobs/budgets, but at least I can see myself enjoying what I’d be doing. Eventually I whore out and use my trial skills to make some money, but at a clip I decide with hours I choose. You need to sack up and quit before you drive yourself crazy. Well, according to your posts you’re already crazy. So you need to quit to enter rehabilitation from biglaw- aka, a semi normal life.

  7. 37 yr old on March 19th, 2009 11:04 am

    If you think 37 is old, you’re a moron.

  8. hello on March 19th, 2009 11:36 am

    this blog likely written by a closeted guy who think she can pass as a woman, literally and figuratively.

  9. Anonymous on March 19th, 2009 11:49 am

    I don’t get it…don’t you guys at “BigLaw” have clients of your own that you can take with you?!

  10. Anonymous on March 19th, 2009 11:53 am

    Sorry, “37yrold”, but 37 is “old”, at least if you want to have kids, switch careers. It’s not impossible, but its not easy. (Coming, by the way, before you dismiss my argument, from a 41-yr-old who spent tens of thousands of $ on fertility treatments at age 36+ only to have them not work).

  11. Biggity-B on March 19th, 2009 12:03 pm

    Back in the 2001 bubble-burst, I had a tech job. Lay-offs crushed all but a few of us. I thought I was lucky to stay… boy was I wrong.

    Salaries of the remaining employees were effectively docked 30+%. Those who got out were given severance at their previous pay and unemployment benefits (in Taxachusetts) that exceeded my take home!

    So, my laid-off friends were spending their days playing tennis and collecting salaries that exceeded my own, and I still had to wake up every morning and drive an hour to some office in the middle of nowhere.


  12. In-house working 90-hour weeks on March 19th, 2009 12:13 pm

    Nice work. I think this is an excellent topic to think of.

  13. Laid Off and Loving Life on March 19th, 2009 12:45 pm

    Hear Hear! I got laid off two months ago, and it has been the GREATEST thing that ever happened to me! I can’t explain to you the wonderful feeling I have every morning when I wake up and think to myself, “I don’t have to go in and work for [Partner X] and [Senior Associate Y] EVER AGAIN.” It is nothing short of pure, unadulterated, ecstasy. Food tastes better, music sounds better, the air is sweeter…

    Do I have huge student loans? Sure… But I have $30k severance, another $20k coming in unemployment, and another $40k saved. Am I rich? Hardly… but I sure ain’t sweating it out yet! I am 30 years old, have no family (except my dog), and wouldn’t CONSIDER trading this wonderful feeling for my job back in a soul-sucking law firm.

    I have weekly drinks with a former colleague of mine, and he is absolutely miserable! Everyone is just moping around the office waiting for the axe to fall (which it will), while I am out hiking on the beach in Marin with my dog and sitting in Dolores Park reading a book.


  14. So True... on March 19th, 2009 1:15 pm

    And here I thought I was the only one who felt this way. No attorney layoffs at my firm yet, but maybe there could be?

  15. Anonymous on March 19th, 2009 3:08 pm

    Can you imagine pulling down the panties of a woman who spent “76 straight hours closing a bond offering in a windowless office the size of a handicap toilet stall?”

    Not me, man, don’t volunteer me for that. I’d need combat pay to bone that woman.

  16. Anonymous on March 19th, 2009 6:34 pm

    I would imagine being laid off is a temporary relief at best. Sure, the initial joy due to lack of responsibility could be great if you have some savings and expected income. But, if that runs out, bills start mounting, and you’re still unemployed, that initial joy will pale in comparison to the stress and anxiety you will face trying to stay afloat, especially if the market is as bad as I hear it is.

    And yes, 37 years old is old if you are a female with a desire for children.

  17. anon on March 19th, 2009 7:57 pm

    Uh, I’m in BigLaw but don’t really mind it. Maybe you just picked a firm that has a bunch of jerks. Plus, due to the economy you should be working fewer hours, not more — maybe your firm laid off too many people or can’t distribute work evenly. How can so many firms be so badly managed, anyway?

  18. Wilbur Moore on March 20th, 2009 6:36 am

    Don’t worry.

    You will meet a man who will rock your world, and when you do, you can marry him, take a leave of absense, and breed a bunch of rug rats that you can come back here to complain about.

    Most broads are always bitching about something. Once you get married, you can bitch about your husband (picking his nose, farting, etc).

    Then after you pop out a couple of kids, you can complain about the crying, dirty diapers (ew…. I have to scrape sh**t from his rear end?).

    Then you can complain about the Dominican maid, who you SWEAR is taking knick-nacks home with her, and possibly engaging in light petting with your husband in the laundry room.

    Then you can complain about the price of baubles at Bergdorf.

    Then you can complain about undergoing divorce, and then you can complain some more.

    Chicks like you are fine for a quick lay, but not for the long-term. Therefore all of the above are not likely to come about, unless in your dreams. In the meantime, if you want to have cheap meaningless sex, I’m sure there are a number of horny guys (in your firm or around this website) willing to help you out.

  19. Anonymous on March 20th, 2009 4:05 pm

    “(Coming, by the way, before you dismiss my argument, from a 41-yr-old who spent tens of thousands of $ on fertility treatments at age 36+ only to have them not work).”

    My mistake. 37 is old for a chick. For a guy, its just getting started.

    Hell, 27 is old for a chick.

  20. Alex Hump on March 20th, 2009 5:59 pm

    That’s the problem. Chicks’ eggs get stale before they think they’re ready to leave the work-a-day world, go home, forget the birth control and hump until the cows come home.

    The only trouble is, by the time the chick is laying there, spread eagle, saying “fill my honey hole with your syrup” it’s too late, because she’s not able to conceive, and he may well be shooting blanks himself.

    I suggest that all women start their child bearing IMMEDIATELY upon leaving law school. Then, once the kid is about 5, they can go back into the working world to stay. They’d only be 30-32 or so, have already popped out a healthy kid, and would only have to worry about day-care.

    This poster should take our advice, find a guy, let him impregnate you NOW, get married, have the kid, and then, maybe in 5 years, consider coming back to work. It beats sitting in a room doing documents for 76 straight hours.

  21. Anonymous on March 21st, 2009 10:22 am

    Isn’t this about the time that we get a comment from the Southern Lawyer telling the BFW that life is good down South, and inviting her to come down and spread her legs? Now, where is that dildo?

  22. Anonymous on March 22nd, 2009 5:10 pm

    Yea, where is that dip sheet?

  23. Bill Dugan on March 23rd, 2009 1:11 pm

    You are a bunch of A-wipes. The Southern Lawyer is cool.

  24. Eileen DeBonis on March 24th, 2009 11:54 am

    I’ve wasted a number of my child bearing years waiting for the right guy to come along, but up until now, all have been gutless weasels, interested in sex but not in marriage. I will not lower my standards, even if it means doing the in-vitro thing on my own.

  25. Wilbur Moore on March 25th, 2009 7:01 am

    Eileen, I am sorry to hear things didn’t work out. But try and not take it out on the men here.

  26. Sergei Andropov on March 25th, 2009 6:00 pm

    I would like to have sex with this woman. How can this be arranged?

  27. Wilbur Moore on March 26th, 2009 5:56 am

    You had better stand in line, Mr. Sergei Russian Wolfhound. There are a number of other eligible men who have been waiting patiently, at best sniffing around her privates for months already with nothing to show but a set of blue balls. What makes you think you are so qualified that you can just can waltz in here and get immediate poon-tang? There are other women on the site that might take you up on it, but not the writer of these posts. She is strictly virginal.

  28. Sergei Andropov on March 26th, 2009 2:17 pm

    I want wirgin. Is she wirgin? If she wirgin, I will to be careful to make this very good for her.

  29. Eileen DeBonis on March 28th, 2009 9:07 am

    Wow, I leave the site for a few days and these disgusting men have taken to auctioning off the web master.

    You scummy losers cannot just take what is not yours to take. Between Wilbur and Andropov, neither of you deserve any woman, except maybe one who is interested in the lowest forms of life. Andropov, who are you to think that you are entitled to a VIRGIN. Are you a Virgin? Might not a woman have any say over whether she should give up her Virginity to you? The trouble with you Russians is that you think women are subservient, and are put on this earth solely to give you pleasure. Well let me tell you, Boris, that we have our own thoughts, and warming your crotch just ain’t on our list.

    As for Wilbur, well, you have been an outspoken Misogyonist for quite a while. You, Hump, the Southern Lawyer and Dugan are all cut from the same cloth, and that cloth surely needs some laundering.

    I suggest you all get into the tub with some soap and scrub hard. Only by cleaning up your act will any self respecting woman find any of you interesting enough to go out on a date with.

  30. Alex Hump on March 30th, 2009 3:35 pm

    Dugmeister, how goes it? I haven’t heard from you in weeks!

  31. Anonymous on March 30th, 2009 7:53 pm

    Looks like there may be hope for those who salivate over Legal Tease…

  32. Anonymous on March 31st, 2009 6:28 am

    Which one of those two cows is the Legal Tease? I wouldn’t hump either one–even the Brit has a name that sounds just like “Shithouse”. The other one looks like a guy (and not a beauty). Men, keep your zippers up!

  33. Anonymous on March 31st, 2009 7:33 pm

    So I hear Wheeling, West Virginia is a pretty shitty place to live…

  34. Bill Dugan on April 1st, 2009 11:07 am

    Wheeling hasn’t been blessed with the downturn, so I made the decision to move to NY City. I have a new job lined up with a small firm and am going to take the NY Bar. I hope to get some pointers from the big firm people. The Humpster is going to provide pointers to me, and maybe I can hook up with some NYC babes.

  35. Eileen DeDonis on April 1st, 2009 6:26 pm

    Dugan, you won’t get any special “babes” in the Big Apple. Yes, there are more women than in Wheeling (wherever that is), but they have standards too. You must be clean, neat, and presentable, and you must treat us with respect. If you don’t you will be heading nowhere, fast.

    So take my advice–stay away from evil influences like Hump, and the Southern Lawyer and Wilber (a real twerp) and you should be better off.

  36. Anonymous on April 1st, 2009 7:23 pm

    I actually think Dugan SHOULD meet up with Alex; they appear to have some kind of homoerotic bonding going on, so who knows, it might result in something beneficial to the both of them.

  37. Anonymous on April 2nd, 2009 11:38 am

    DeDonis, you are seriously damaged goods.

  38. Not-So-Innocent Law Student on April 2nd, 2009 5:04 pm

    Absolutely amused by the banter. Guys being guys.

    Brilliant blog.

  39. Anonymous on April 3rd, 2009 7:31 am

    I’ll be willing to provide Eileen with an anal probe, at no charge. I’ve had a hard day at work, and think it would do both of us some good.

  40. El on April 3rd, 2009 8:35 am

    Still love this blog itself, but please, please, please, what do ANY of, like, 90% of the comments on this post have to with anything even REMOTELY related to layoff envy? “Anal probe”? Really? You people need to get some help.

  41. Anonymous on April 3rd, 2009 9:59 pm

    Get a life, El!

    “Cartman Gets an Anal Probe”, the first episode of Comedy Central’s animated series South Park, originally aired on August 13, 1997. In the episode, Cartman boasts about a nightmare he had about being abducted by aliens; his friends Stan and Kyle try to convince Cartman that his nightmare was in fact reality. This was the only episode of South Park produced by 2-D animation; all future episodes were produced with assistance of computer.

  42. Xuan Lin on April 4th, 2009 2:47 pm

    Hello, everybody–I have just returned to USA following long visit home. There continues to be much animosity on this website. Women are again being subjected to being treated as second class citizens. I have not come back too soon, and must set the records straight.

    I see that El is getting upset; she is too sensitive. Younger lawyers recognize blog to be “brilliant”. I agree. Eileen still unhappy. Best not to worry that much Eileen. You will find someone worthy of you. Dugan and Alex Hump appear to have made friendship through the blog. This is very good. Makes blog not an anonymous place to make friends. Sergei Andropov seems a bit demanding. We do not even know him and already he comes for sex? This is not proper in USA.

    It is very sad that woman delay bearing child and then cannot bear child. I agree it is best to have children early, then let develop as law career develop.

    So long for now. I hope to see good humor in future from posters, less hatred better for all.

  43. Anonymous on April 6th, 2009 9:31 am

    Anonymous on April 3rd
    What does South Park have to do with anything?? You are only furthering El’s point that this site is being inundated with stupid comments from idiots like you. Why not comment on the subject of the blogg post? Besides any one of us can google/wiki South Park…we dont need you to do it for us.

  44. Long Dong Thomas on April 7th, 2009 6:33 am

    This is precisely why I got into government work. The hours are regular and the pay is pretty good. I’m making about the same as this woman and right now, I have other people doing the heavy lifting for me while I can ponder the bigger issues. I suggest that the Legal Tease prepare for a career in government.

  45. Louis on January 16th, 2010 2:55 pm

    The New York Times quotes you as saying: “But, Legal Tease argued, that six-figure salary looks a lot smaller when you divide it by the number of hours worked. “If you do the math, you’re making less than a baby sitter — not a nanny even, but an actual baby sitter in high school,” she insisted. ”

    This explains a lot. Take $100,000 and divide by 365 days (assuming no vacation time or weekends). The result is $274 a day. Now, the average hourly U.S. pay rate for high school-age babysitters averages about $12 at the top end.

    So, without getting into tax issues, to earn less than $12 per hour when you’re making $274 per day, you’d have to work close to 23 hours a day, every day of the year.

    Conclusion: there are three possibilities:
    (i) lawyers will bill more hours than there are hours in the year;
    (ii) lawyers are able to sleep less than 2 hours a day, every day of the year;
    (iii) lawyers are able to work in their sleep;
    or one certainty:
    (iv) when lawyers say “do the math”, they’re bluffing.

  46. Bill on January 16th, 2010 11:00 pm

    This guy, Louis, needs to get laid.

    Louis, where did the NY Times quote the Legal Tease?

    And Legal Tease, how about some new material?

    The old stuff is getting moldy, and we need some fresh stuff. I think if the Legal Tease would hump Louis, we’d get some new material, although I couldn’t guarantee it would be interesting.

  47. Mike on January 19th, 2010 7:03 pm

    Louis is right. No matter how you slice it, a lawyer making six figures ALWAYS makes more than a babysitter.


    -If you worked 80 hours/week, 52 weeks/year, and made $160,000, then you’d still be making $38.46/hour.

    -If you worked 80 hours/week, 52 weeks/year, and made $100,000, then you’d still be making $24.00/hour.

    -If you worked 100 hours/week, 52 weeks/year, and made $100,000, then you’d still be making $19.23/hour.

    If you’re paying your babysitter that much, you’re getting a raw deal.

    By the way, consider this more realistic scenario: if you work 65 hours/week, 50 weeks/year, and made $160,000 (not counting benefits), then you’d be making $49.23.

  48. NY* on January 19th, 2010 7:23 pm

    I agree that the math is a stretch, but I actually know people who pay babysitters in NYC 18-25/hour. Raw deal in the Midwest or Kentucky, maybe, but Manhattan is another league. Just sayin.

  49. Hannah on January 19th, 2010 7:25 pm

    The article Louis was referring to can be found on the NYT website in the “Fashion & Style” section under the name “The Golden Ticket.” The quote is on page two, and, as has been stated already, it’s pretty much total bull.

  50. Anonymous on January 19th, 2010 9:08 pm

    oh my god this last thread just proves again that lawyers are the most uptight losers on the block. why don’t you put down your little calculators, try to go get laid and get a life.

  51. Guano Dubango on January 20th, 2010 7:24 am

    I agree with Anonymous, and am willing to provide assistance to any pretty female lawyers in need of a sexual partner.

  52. Mike on January 20th, 2010 1:05 pm

    NY: really? I mean, really? Are you honestly going to tell me that it’s anything close to a norm (or anything close to reasonable) to pay a high-school aged babysitter $25/hour? What planet are you from? I live in New York. Trust me, the cost of living is bad, but it’s not that bad.

    To anonymous: I’m not a lawyer. Well, that is to say, I’m not anymore. I went to law school, graduated, and never practiced law. I can’t say I regret that. In any event, what I was doing with the calculations is called thinking. Maybe if we had more of it, then fewer dopes would end up in law school. And we’d have fewer people making stupid comments about lawyers in large firms making less than high-school aged babysitters.

    To Guano Dubango: I think your comment speaks for itself.

  53. NY* on January 20th, 2010 3:33 pm

    Sorry to break it to you, “Mike,” but Brooklyn or Astoria or whatever outerborough you undoubtedly hail from doesn’t count as “NY.” But I’m sure you’re really good at math — and have lots of experience babysitting. So, at least there’s that :-)

  54. Anonymous on January 21st, 2010 7:05 am

    Mike sounds like a wuss. Shouldn’t he admit he did not pass the bar and that’s why he never practiced law? This guy ought to find a woman and get busy.

  55. anony on January 21st, 2010 11:21 am

    Mike: grauduating from law school doesn’t make you a lawyer, “anymore” or otherwise. It makes you…someone who graduated from law school.

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