Will Smoking Weed Keep Me out of Big Law?

July 2, 2009 by  

advice-weed-featureQ:  I’m a rising 2L at a top-tier law school.  I smoked a lot of weed in college, and I continued that right through 1L year. I don’t think it really affects my ability, both in school and at work, since I’m not high during class or in the office.  My question is, do you think this can continue?  More specifically, do law firms drug test their employees, and if they do, is a positive marijuana test a dealbreaker?  —High and Mighty

A: Here’s one of the fun things about working at a law firm: In at least a few key ways, it differs slightly from working at, say, Wal-Mart. One of them is that law firms don’t typically expect you to pee in a cup before they hand you the keys to your office. See, here’s the thing about working in Big Law—the powers that be don’t particularly give much a rat’s ass what you do in your time out of the office, as long as it doesn’t (i) cut down on their profits per partner, or (ii) make the firm look bad. Sure, your state bar and the fine people who administer the MPRE may claim otherwise in theory, but in practice, if you want to spend your nights and weekends stumbling around your apartment like it’s some sort of ersatz Phish tour, have at it. Just sober up by the time you get to work. And don’t get arrested.

One thing you need to realize though: If you’re the kind of kid who needs to smoke “a lot” of weed, as you say, working at a big firm doesn’t really seem to be in the cards for you, at least not as a long-term gig. There’s no question that law school is basically an extension of college, only with more reading and admittedly uglier people, so it makes sense that your little hobby hasn’t had much of an impact (at least according to you). Once you get into Big Law, though, it’s a whole different ball game, honey.  You managed to get into a “top-tier “law school, so you can’t be that much of an idiot, but the stoner-with-a-brain persona that may have worked for you in school isn’t going to win many fans at a law firm. Remember: Your average Big Law firm is little more than a billable hours factory filled with type-A nerds where the kid with the biggest billables and the best bonus is king.  Being able to work 80 hours straight with no sleep, catching typos, and generally being a laser-focused lunatic are the metrics for “cool” in Big Law—not the ability to make a bong out of a mango.

Bottom line: Your weed habit probably won’t stop you from getting through the door of the firm, but it’s not gonna be a helluva lot of fun once you’re there. So, if being high (not to mention mighty) is so important to you, at least have the good sense to to pick a habit that gets you up to speed with the rest of the profession.

Good luck!

Need advice? Email our Sweet Hot Counsel at counsel@sweethotjustice.com.


20 Responses to “Will Smoking Weed Keep Me out of Big Law?”

  1. anon on July 2nd, 2009 9:03 am

    if you’re going to abuse drugs at a big law firm cocaine and crystal meth are what you’re going to need, anyway.

  2. Southern Lawyer on July 2nd, 2009 10:12 am

    I pass on grass. However, off the top of my head, I know that at least half of the partners I work for are huge fans of the ganja (sp?)…and that number grows by the year. They are also really into chasing valiums with expensive wine…or really anything……yeah….they’re special.

    Personally, I prefer to go home and drink alone to try and erase any memory of the day I just had…but that’s me. Sometimes if you drink enough, you can lie to yourself and say that you never wanted to go to med school, anyway!
    So, the truth of the matter is, a lawyer is never…. NEVER…going to make another lawyer take a drug test because he doesn’t want to draw any unnecessary attention to HIS/HER own drug habit.

  3. El on July 2nd, 2009 10:27 am

    Southern — Def. agree about the “lawyers don’t let other lawyers take drug tests” angle. In my firm, though, its all about coke and adderall, not pot, at least with the associates. Its all about being UP not relaxed. Who knows, could be a NY thing, though…

  4. Guano D on July 2nd, 2009 12:10 pm

    I don’t know about you guys, but to go in house, you do have to piss in a cup. So if this douche eventually decides to head in house, he may have a problem, or he may have to bring some one else’s piss into the toilet when he is given a cup.

  5. Anonymous on July 2nd, 2009 8:30 pm

    I interviewed in-house last week for a tech-type company and there was an entire page in the HR application, in bold print, notifying you about a background check and substance abuse screening. I don’t think it happens in law firms, but if you’re ever looking to go in-house, dude, you’re screwed.

  6. El on July 5th, 2009 7:53 am

    Anonymous, I think Guano said what you did. Maybe you need a colon clensing!

  7. Mitch on July 6th, 2009 6:55 am

    At a minimum, you may want to consider your use of the term “smoking weed,” and instead opt for the more lawyerly sounding “using cannabis.” Aside from that, I’d recommend a clear resin encased marijuana leaf paper weight for your desk.

  8. Anonymous on July 9th, 2009 5:11 pm

    agreed. at a firm I summered for, as soon as they offered me a job, two associates invited me over for a puff party. just don’t be the one doing the inviting.

  9. Willem on July 10th, 2009 6:57 am

    Ya, if you smoke the weed, you will not be sharp. I met girl this way, on the floor naked of hotel room. She was at the law firm for discovery, and we smoked more, but sex not good when hungry. Also, the next morning, she did not look good.

  10. Catnip on July 21st, 2009 9:42 am

    That’s all I need – some committee of white-haired sociopaths deciding that, on top of the buckets of blood and sweat, they’re going to extract pee from me as well. Screw that dreck – like I really have any more dignity left to forfeit at this point. I predict that a firm idiotic enough to implement a drug-testing policy would see a marked decrease in attorney applications.

  11. JudgeSmails on September 4th, 2009 9:52 pm

    I am a 6th year associate at an AM100. I like to smoke a bit at night when I get home. It’s just not really a big deal, as long as you don’t show up to work stoned or pull an uberburn the night before you have something big going on the next day, like an important appearance. Otherwise, I find it to be a great way to wind down after a day full of biglaw stress.

  12. krissy on January 18th, 2010 10:04 pm

    If they inform you of a drug screen go to GNC. You’ll need $50 for a cleanse.

  13. Law Student on July 1st, 2010 11:53 am

    I just finished my first year at a SoCal law school and I absolutely do not know how I would have gotten through it without the sweet relief of cannabis. It really bothers me when people who probably do not even use cannabis try to tell others that they cannot be successful if they choose to use cannabis. In my first year I started Law Students for Safe Access, which is a student organization which advocates for the rights of medicinal cannabis patients, (www.lawstudentsforsafeaccess.com). LSSA ended up being the largest and most active organization on campus. I also held a benefit concert on campus which raised $1500.00 for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, I was an oral advocacy competition runner up which automatically places me on the Moot Court Honors Board, I secured a Judicial Externship for this summer, I finished in the top 9% of my class and also made Law Review, Honor Roll and Deans list. I accomplished all of this while using cannabis every day and I cannot see any reason why my ability to succeed will change when I enter the work force. My recommendation to the original poster is to keep on doing what works for you.

  14. Bro on October 13th, 2010 12:00 am

    Ahhhh, long day. Class, gym, dinner, reading for 5 straight hours. I should hit the hay so I can get up and reread before class tomorrow. I’m too wired to sleep thanks to caffeine. I’ll just have a strong drink and watch a bit of tv then crash. / I’ll just hit this bowl 2 or 3 times and watch a bit of tv then crash. SAME.

  15. Curious on November 30th, 2011 4:27 am

    I’ve never used cannabis, but I’m a bit curious about it, and I have severe back pain resulting from years of bad posture. If I were to become a medical marijuana patient in California, would the state bar care? I mean would this weigh on the character and fitness committee’s decision regarding my fitness to practice law–since medical marijuana, while legal under California law, is illegal under federal law?

  16. Tia on February 2nd, 2012 4:11 am

    wow this is very relieving to see. I work for a top tier firm and smoke weed, definitely not the smartest thing to be doing =/ but at least I can refrain from smashing back whiskey when Im high. If you dont need it in your life, avoid it, if possible.

  17. John Dough, Esq on March 27th, 2013 7:53 pm

    Did any of you take an ethics class?? The model rules do NOT ALLOW firms to test attorneys with no specific and very important reason. That’s the whole f-ing point of taking the bar and being background checked-your word means something now…

  18. tempest53 on June 30th, 2013 12:02 pm

    Bottom line is you won’t have time. If you do grab a toke. No big deal from where I’m sitting. Which is not at a big law firm, because I wanted to smoke. So, I do non-profit : )

  19. Swagtutor on May 27th, 2014 9:02 pm

    “Bottom line: Your weed habit probably won’t stop you from getting through the door of the firm, but it’s not gonna be a helluva lot of fun once you’re there. So, if being high (not to mention mighty) is so important to you, at least have the good sense to to pick a habit that gets you up to speed with the rest of the profession.”
    Basically the writer just told him to do coke instead.

  20. Randall Burns on September 14th, 2014 9:43 pm

    The big issues in the legal profession are alcoholism and cocaine dependency-which are involved in most legal malpractice cases.

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