Will Smoking Weed Keep Me out of Big Law?
July 2, 2009 by Sweet Hot Counsel
Q: 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.
Need advice? Email our Sweet Hot Counsel at email@example.com.