Working, Girls

September 15, 2010 by  

Hey, you.  Yes, YOU there, the one with the boobs.  You’re a lawyer, right?  Or some sort of Big Law type, at least?  I figured.  I could tell by the bewildered look on your face.  I know, sweetie, I know: It’s confusing being a woman in and around Big Law these days.  First, unless you have a time machine and a magic wand, it looks like you’re not making partner any time soon.  Sorry.  Then, of course, there’s the finding-a-long-term-sex-partner-who-doesn’t-require-batteries problem.  And then, there’s the latest slap: Laminated scraps of “advice” from Citibank your employer about the stupid things that you do to sabotage your career, you (apparently) soft-spoken, smile-happy, invisible moron cow.

And the advice doesn’t stop there.  You can’t even find a good glass ceiling to smack your head up against anymore without tripping over a stack of advice for women lawyers on everything from how to dress for success (Avoid nudity!), to how to toughen up (Sass those boys right back when they act rapey at the office!), to how not to look like a drowned clown corpse at work (Forget it, lost cause!).

At this point, I’m so bored with the heaps of so-called advice from other lawyers and professional counsel-givers that I had to turn to the one person I could think of whose advice never fails.  The one person who knows what it’s like to carve out a niche for yourself in an often cruel, mystifying profession overwrought with over-educated lunatics: My friend, Alanna.  I think you could learn a lot from her. Why?  Because she’s never wrong.

And she’s a hooker.

First, let’s be clear, Alanna’s not your dime-store variety street whore.  She’s a licensed prostitute working out of the Nevada brothels.  In the slower seasons, she skips around the country, dancing in strip clubs and yes, performing in a porn or two.  She’s not a drunk or a junkie and, whether or not you believe her, she claims to like the work—at least as much as any of you like your jobs, i.e. there are good days and bad days.  (Granted, your bad days involve getting slammed with back-to-back closings, whereas hers involved getting slammed with…well, use your imagination.)  Bottom line: Like it or not, she has a marketable set of skills, she’s proud of them, and she exploits them every chance she gets.  In other words, she’s a businesswoman.  A good one.

So, when I was telling her recently over Pinkberry about the latest litany of nonsense at my firm and how I—and every other associate I know, especially the female ones—feel trapped by our jobs, she shook her head and waved me off.

“Look, here’s how it is,” she said, “The hookers in Nevada are the business women, you know?”

“Sure.”  No idea where she was going.

“Dancers, they’ve got a lifestyle,” she continued. “And porn stars, they’re just stupid.”

“Um.  OK.”

“Don’t you get it?” She looked at me like I’d just arrived on the short bus.

Jeeesus,” she laughed, throwing down her Pinkberry spoon.  “I’m saying don’t be a porn star, right? Or don’t be just a porn star, you know?” She picked her spoon back up and pointed it at me, grinning.  “Horizontal integration is the best.”

As usual, Alanna nailed it.  Horizontal integration indeed.  If you take the hooker’s advice at face value—and you should—when you boil it down to basics, whether you’re selling sex or legal advice, the key to pervasive success is the same: Diversify—though not in the way you probably think.

I’m not talking about the usual prattle rattled off by your firm’s development committee or your assigned partner-mentor or the county bar association—you know: Network with other lawyers!  Learn about your clients’ interests!  Take a CLE class!  Ask a partner you never met about his practice!

I’m talking about summoning some balls (and yes, ladies, you’ve got ’em) and branching out beyond not just your own office, but beyond your firm, your job, beyond the traditional legal profession itself.  What are your real skills?  Sure, you’re smart and you know the ins and outs of certain legal fields, but so do a lot of people.  What are you truly better at than most lawyers?  Than most people?  Discovering and expanding that set of skills is what’s going to set you on the path to career bliss—and most likely out of a law firm.  See, despite what the well-meaning folks in your firm’s various associate development committees might think, the main thing that women lawyers—hell, any lawyers—do to sabotage their careers while working in big law firms is…working in big law firms.  For any great stretch, at least.

Not convinced?  Think for a minute about the most admired, most successful lawyer you know.  I don’t mean at your firm; I mean period.  I’d bet you a two-girl party with Alanna that the lawyer you’re picturing not only hasn’t worked at a law firm for the past 30 years, but probably never worked in a law firm for more than a few years, if at all.  Big Law pedigree or not, the best lawyers think like entrepreneurs, not like law firm partners—even if they are law firm partners. They are, indeed, more than just porn stars.  Male or female, they figured out how to “horizontally integrate;” they figured out how to mine their true, innate skills and exploit them to their advantage.   (And while I hate to break it to your local bar association’s women’s committee or your company’s H.R. department, it has nothing to do with what color shoes they wore or whether they smiled too much during group presentations.)

So, while I certainly hope that you won’t take any of what you’ve read here as “advice”—you’ve got enough of that unsolicited nonsense to deal with already—I do hope that you’ll take it as a wake-up call.  And at the very least, the next time you find yourself fantasizing about quitting the firm during your latest 3 a.m. bond deal marathon, or fuming in your office after being passed over for first chair on a plum case, or wondering why the hell you went to law school in the first place, take a deep breath, think of Alanna the horizontally integrated hooker and remember the basics: If you really want to get ahead in Big Law and beyond, you can’t be just a porn star.

Now, that’s one you might stick on a card and laminate.  Hell, you might even want to frame it.

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

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15 Responses to “Working, Girls”

  1. Anonymous on September 15th, 2010 10:47 am

    “Porn stars are just stupid.”

    What a stirring, shocking revelation.

  2. Jesse Custer on September 15th, 2010 12:02 pm

    I recently became a fan of your blog when someone forwarded me your “Does This Law Degree Make My Ass Look Fat” piece published last week. I’ve read most of your posts now and will finish the rest.

    But I wanted to comment on the aforementioned piece from last week. You’re obviously intelligent by virtue of your work here, and intelligence will always be a turn on. If you resemble anything like how the bits and pieces peppered throughout your writing imply that you look, you’re probably also reasonably attractive. Most men like curves, after all. It also seems that you’re successful (or at least fiscally solvent), and I don’t care who you’re polling, I’ll take a hot successful woman who bakes cupcakes every single time over a hot trainwreck. I’m not even close to the only guy I know who will either.

    Bottom line: I understand your confusion at being single. You seem disheartened and lonely with today’s brutal dating scene. But that’s normal. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you or even the men out there. Let me explain. If you are attractive, intelligent and successful, that puts you in the upper one percent. You are a prime mate, and thus you require a prime mate. You made it through a good law school, broke into BigLaw, clawed your way through lay offs and hang in there still. Be honest – you’re picky. And you deserve to be. No one should settle, least of all you. But that means that it will often take time to find someone who stimulates you intellectually, emotionally and physically enough to commit full time. Why settle on less than the trifecta. And you’ll only find that when you stumble upon another single one percenter.

    So I guess the moral of the story is, hang in there. Water finds its own level eventually.

  3. Henry on September 15th, 2010 12:36 pm

    As a fella, some might say I can’t relate to some of this “advice” but I think that the last post had a few good points. No one wants to date an intelligent mess. Just be fun and normal, if that’s possible.

    As far as horizontal integration is concerned, men like women who are fun, and are willing to go horizontal after a few dates without requiring all of the emotional baggage associated with post-sexual relationships. In a nutshell, don’t be afraid to hit the sheets with a guy to test his mettle (and his sexual prowess).

  4. Caleb on September 15th, 2010 1:55 pm

    That was a lot of words, but it sounds like “do good and stuff” was the theme.

    When I saw “horizontal integration” I thought Alanna meant something completely different.

    Not that the two meanings are mutually exclusive, either. Work with what ya got, right?

  5. anony on September 15th, 2010 2:07 pm

    Caleb — Just wondering where you got “do good and stuff” as the theme of an article that has an obviously self-serving lawyer interpreting the advice of a prostitute/porn actress as meaning that you should figure out what skills you have so you can quit your law firm job and go make real money elsewhere.

    “And stuff” maybe, but not sure about the first part.


  6. Worthington on September 15th, 2010 3:16 pm

    I am with anony here. This entry is great. This has nothing to do with getting laid, and I don’t know why the other 3-4 posters have commented on this entry. Anyway, I plan on getting my JD, but I do not plan on practicing law. I want my JD so I can teach environmental law/policy down the road, and to work as a consultant in the environmental/energy fields. I also plan on getting my MA in Political Science. It is nice to diversify yourself, and as “anony” put it, “go make real money elsewhere.” You don’t have to sell your soul to BigLaw, and I have seen people do it who really could be doing much more substantial things with their lives. Yes, in BigLaw you can make money, good money if you are talented and smart – but there are so many ways to take that degree and apply it to other less-traditional fields.

  7. Mary Kate on September 15th, 2010 5:07 pm

    I seriously love your blog, great entry. My mantra tends to be “it’s just work, take the good and do your best to ignore the bad. It’s just a job it’s not who you are.” At least you have health care right? Maybe that’s crap advice for success but it’s relatively good advice for staying sane. Also wtf is up with the makeup advice, who thought that was a good idea?

  8. Larry on September 16th, 2010 6:25 am

    I think if these women had gotten enough dik in college, they never would have had to do the law school thing, and now have all this career angst.

    They could rely on their man doing the work and then they could have stayed home and gone shopping every day, or go to the beach.

    That would have been a smarter alternative for these women.

    Instead, they’re focused on trying to be everything, but have next to nothing but a paycheck.

  9. elle on September 16th, 2010 9:44 am

    Mary Kate-

    lol yes, I’d actually forgotten about the makeup ‘seminar’ or whatever it was that was supposed to be held a while ago and this post reminded me. Crazy! And crazy inappropriate!! I don’t understand why the same certain people on this blog have a problem taking advice from a prostiute, but were perfectly fine with all the horrible ‘advice’ columns being handed down to women in the legal profession and their counterparts elsewhere.

    More like this, please.

  10. Rudy on September 17th, 2010 3:38 am

    Hi from Big Law in Europe. Great post!

  11. Anonymous on September 17th, 2010 6:01 am

    I think women should be more deferential to men. You can’t have two alphas in the same family. That only leads to fighting.

    These issues never seem to happen during the years when the Mad Men TV series happened.

    And back then, look at the women!

    Even the dufussey men could drink & screw at will, and the women seemed pretty darn happy.

  12. Nancy on September 21st, 2010 2:55 pm

    to Larry and Anony @6:01 am

    seriously guys – for your sake, I’m hoping these comments are intentionally tongue-in-check. if not – please go get a life.

    I got plenty of dck prior to law school – I didn’t go to law school to prove I had a pair – I went because I wanted more for my life. And I got it by not settling. I have a terrific alpha male hubby who adores me, two sons, and a fantastic in-house job that pays a sht-load of money. Why – because, like the blog post states – I found what I’m good at, know my clients, love the business, and my company rewards me for that.

    and, fyi, I’m sure my big guy has it hanging all over you guys. so grow up, and respond constructively.

  13. Hank on September 22nd, 2010 5:06 pm

    Nancy, you sound fairly attractive, particularly if youre a practicing attorney.

    Send us a link so we can see what you look like.

  14. WTP on September 28th, 2010 3:50 am

    What’s the difference between a lawyer and a hooker? A hooker will stop screwing you when you are dead.

  15. Angie on November 21st, 2010 8:28 pm

    Right on Jesse Custer!! Best comment I’ve read on any website, all year. There are decent guys out there, who knew (but for Larry the Douchebag perhaps)??

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