The Laid Off Diary: Dear Diary…this sucks.

Let’s Do Lunch
June 9, 2009, 12:08 am
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Dear Diary:

Never has this phrase actually meant something more than it does now. Sure, we went to lunch with partners but we were already shackled to The Firm that they didn’t really care to get to know us (especially with the high turnover rate and I can only imagine that no one goes to lunch to get to know the associates in light of the layoff monsoon that keeps coming in waves), couldn’t really tell us apart, and because lawyers are socially awkward in general (we might have developed some coping mechanisms such as one-liners to feign interest, or a fall back topic or fall back comments to fill in the awkward silence or to help us overcome our shyness or our general lack of being able to relate to other human beings). But now that I’m networking with business people, they love lunch. They love talking about themselves and sometimes are also genuinely interested in other people too (unlike partners who are really just interested in themselves and money, which actually isn’t that much compared to their business counterparts).

But not only do business people love lunch, they love to talk. They love to have conversations and talk about ideas and projects and deals (only insofar as deals encompass the ideas that came to fruition) and most of them seem very irresistibly interested and excited about what they do. Perhaps it’s only because I’m talking to CEOs or managing directors and not little peons, which is why the majority of people I have lunch with really seem to enjoy what they like. But the saddest thing as a law student that I heard when I was a summer associate was asking a partner why they specialized in what they did and the most common answer was that they fell into it and 30 years later, they are still doing it.

At associate development lunches at the firm, we were told to find a niche practice which most of the time resulted from happening upon an assignment that required us to do about 30 hours of mind numbing research on a boring or obscure part of the law and then being the “go to” person every time that issue came up. We were actually encouraged to seek out mind-numbing work and “fall” into that niche practice instead of CHOOSING a practice area or niche that made us tick.

Not very encouraging.

Shouldn’t we first find out what makes us tick and then seek out a position or build one around what we are interested in? Are lawyers that afraid to go after what they want that they are willing to hang their hat on any random ass nail they happen to find sticking out of a wall and 30 years later, still hang on that same damn rusty nail?

I realize that lawyers have been categorized as “risk adverse” but this is just plain fear.

–Hammering in my own nail instead of trying to stumble upon an empty one


June 8, 2009, 9:28 pm
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Dear Diary:

What is it about reality TV shows that delight us so much? It’s not just that it’s a dramatic train wreck you can’t look away from, but it also makes us secretly feel better about ourselves. Sort of why we watch Cops.

But I’ve also gotten into watching “Judge Judy” type reality TV shows. I still remember when Judge Judy came out and hit the scene. We pedigreed lawyers sort of turned our noses up at her while we begrudgingly gave her some credit for making it “outside the system” (outside the BigLaw system).

The latest one I’ve been watching (mainly because it’s in the afternoon when I wake up and turn on the TV and roll out of bed to 1) get up to go on an informational coffee/interview; 2) get up to go pee only to get back in bed; 3) get up to hit the gym; 4) get up to meet friends for lunch; or 5) get up to watch TV) is Christina’s Court. She’s okay. Attractive but not sexy. She’s a fiery blond. Articulate. Bitchy. Bi-lingual. Wears a bit too much eye makeup. Everything reality TV show wants from its main character.

But the thing that gets me is that she won an Emmy. She won a freaking Emmy. An Emmy. Nevermind the fact that Emmys are going to reality TV shows. Nevermind that we’ve turned our legal system into “day time entertainment”. She won an emmy–the thing that eluded Susan Lucci so many years–the thing that represents when you are the best in your field.


Then I looked at all the stupid deal toys that I got, and for some reason kept, from deals that I worked on. Some were for deals from my first year that I got just by reading massive amounts of contracts, sweating profusely because I had no idea what most of the contract provisions meant, and trying not to pass out after staring at little tiny black words for ten hours a day all the while not doing anything that needed legal education. So the fact that I got those deal toys meant nothing and surely did not represent that I was the best in my field. The other group of deal toys came from my pushing down work to scared junior associates, drafting agreements from borrowed forms, changing some dates, a few terms, and sending out very professional sounding emails. Hm… still not what I would consider to be a symbol of achieving greatness in my field.

deal toys

In fact, I think these deal toys were more for the business guys than for the lawyer monkeys working on the boring legal issues and inking in the ideas/terms that the business guys negotiated. The deal toys actually meant something to the business guys–it was their deal and they closed it. They’re deal oriented; we’re billable hour oriented. We work for fees–one banana for every .25 hour increment billed. And all I have to show for my work and for all my education are deal toys that are really for someone else and in no way shape or form represents that I was the best in my field, or even competent as I certainly wasn’t competent as a first year corporate associate.

That fucking sucks.

What do I have to show for my achievements? What do you have (if you say “my BigLaw job”, I hope you drown in your banana flavored koolaid)?

Never Failed
June 7, 2009, 11:48 am
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Dear Diary:

Today, the NY Times had a very interesting (buy not at all surprising) article about White and Case and the structure of BigLaw in general.

Two things really stuck out besides the obvious notion that the BigLaw structure, at the very least, needs an “adjustment”. One of the things is that Verrier (managing partner of WC) said he was faced with three options in response to the economic crisis: 1) do nothing and risk the firm’s livlihood, 2) couch lay offs as based on performace, or 3) own up to the fact that lay offs were economic based.

I still do not, to this day understand why firms are shooting themselves in the foot by laying off attorneys and blaming them for being poor attorneys. How can a firm betray its associates who chose it, probably above other gems that were courting him or her, in such a despicable manner? And how can it then not understand why law students or remaining associates who haven’t drank the koolaid have no loyalty to the firm? Furthermore, the legal world is so small and now with attorneys taking nontraditional careers such as in government or companies, how can such a poor business and ethical decision not come back and bite the firm in one way or another. So even if the firm doesn’t care about doing the right thing on a personal or ethical level, on a business level, they shouldn’t burn the bridges with its associates, especially with the blog world being so active, the smoke from the fires will be seen far and wide and for a very long time.

By parting ways in a gentleman’s manner and owning up the fact that the firm is hurting and cannot keep it’s associates will still sting, true, but is much a better way to handle things on a business level and a personal level.

The second thing that struck me was that the article addressed how difficult it was to lay off associates because of how we would take it- we are a group that has never failed. But I have to stress again that being laid off isn’t necessarily a set back or a failure. It needs to be defined in relation to our goal. Many associates don’t want to become partner but were just on the path because they didn’t know what else to do. Some people think they want biglaw because that’s what we were programmed to think in law school. We are competitive people. We want to go to the best law school, get the best grades, get into the best law firm… and what was cobsidered the best law frm was defined by starting salaries and PPPs, not necessarily what satisfies us or gives us meaningful work.

I think we have used the wrong measuring stick to define what is the “best” and this is skewing our idea of our goal. So until we re-examine these things, can we really say we have failed?

And it is likely you are the type of person who has never failed and if this is still considered a failure after you examine your goal, well, failing once in your life is pretty damn good stats and the game isn’t over yet.

-haven’t failed

June 5, 2009, 4:34 pm
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Dear Diary:

I fell asleep in the subway today. It’s actually the first time I really fell asleep. I was incredibly tired from crashing at my friends house in Brooklyn and then waking up early to make it back to walk the ingrate dog. Then I did some errands and visited a friend uptown and then on the way home, I fell asleep. It was a really nice stress-free sleep. I mean, nevermind looking like a complete idiot, it was more that I was tired, I didn’t care if anyone saw me fall asleep and drool on myself, but it was also that I have all the time in the world and even if I missed my stop, well, no problem. The only schedule I have these days is my dog’s pee schedule. 3-4x a day, every 6-8 hours. Not a bad schedule.

I also fell asleep in central park. I’ve fallen asleep on a Tuesday afternoon. I’ve taken a nap at 11am. I’ve fallen asleep on my friend’s couch. I don’t want you to think that I’m a slacker or necroleptic–it’s just that I’ve been so relaxed lately. I’ve fallen asleep mostly sober so it’s just being relaxed and not worried about deadlines. When I was working, the only times I came close to falling asleep during the day (or at work) was when I was either completely sleep deprived and the caffeine pumping through my veins no longer had any effect on me, or (when the market crashed) when I dragged my ass in after a night of hard partying that I was still drunk when I woke up at 9am. But it was always anxiety that kept my ass up.

Anyway, my cousin who is also a lawyer but in the OC (she apparently chose the better location than I did–it’s still fucking raining in NYC!) sent me an article in the LA Times titled “For the ‘Funemployed’, unemployment is welcome.”

When I was first laid off, I was relieved. I could finally be myself but I was still pretty anxious about money, my career, and what the hell I was going to do. But now, I actually feel lucky to have been laid off. I know it sounds weird but I was pretty close to becoming a billing zombie and burned out that I actually get about 6-12 months off to recoup and re-strategize about my life and during a time when being “laid off” has the least amount of stigma attached to it.

Also, I hate to say it to those who are still employed–the lay offs aren’t done yet. And it’s always better to be laid off early than later because we’re already networking and reaching out to people and tapping the market, perfecting our attack plan, etc. so, as the theory goes, we’ll probably be absorbed first back into the market so not only am I glad that I was laid off, but that I was laid off early.

–going to take a nap

June 4, 2009, 2:00 am
Filed under: Uncategorized


Dear Diary:

It’s very difficult to do something good in this world. It’s almost like there is a mechanism that keeps us from winning the good fight. From child abuse to Michael Vic from fighting hunger to fighting human trafficking… it’s an up hill battle.

It’s an uphill battle for every tiny thing.

And that brings me to my point: Ever since being laid off, I’ve been putting my funemployment to work on myself–beginning with eating right.

Did you know that eating healthy makes you fart more? And not just a little bit more toot each fart or a little bit more often–but like thirty times more often and way more toot for each fart. If I’m not farting, I’m uncomfortably holding it in waiting for a time where I can release the beast.


I’m going to have to revert back to my old habits of junk food and beer before I start going on interviews. Luckily, for both me and any potential interviewer, I haven’t secured an interviews. So, for now, I’m just having fun, spending my severance, and farting away.


June 3, 2009, 11:25 pm
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Dear Diary:

Today is the season finale of Cougar. It’s like a totally taboo train wreck that I can’t stop watching. It already showed but because I’m still spoiled from when I had a job, I recorded it on my DVR.

I was just thinking “FUQUE IT” I’m going on a reality TV show. But that will probably ruin me. But let’s be honest. What are the chances that I will get back into BigLaw? And will I be satisfied in a midsized firm or TinyLaw?

I’m thinking of exploring other opportunities. Having a law degree definitely gives me more street cred about being “smert” and all that, but does it also carry some negative stereotypes as well? (Type A personality, pompous, boring, hard headed…boring again, socially awkward, boring…etc.)

Hell, I could find my new career after being on a reality TV show. Probably not but it will be one hell of a ride.

–Gotta hit the gym because the camera adds 10 pounds

Cold Water, $1
June 1, 2009, 5:42 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Dear Diary,

I was walking through Central Park today (unfortunately, I live too far to walk there so couldn’t bring the dog and large dogs aren’t allowed on the subway or buses) and there was a young guy selling water for $1. He didn’t look like the “regular” vendors and his cooler wasn’t one of those large red and white plastic ones the regular vendors tug but one of those small cloth ones that frat boys keep in the back of their car for beer picnics. There was also something odd about the way he was yelling out “cold water, one dollar!” He seemed a little embarrassed every time someone turned him down.

I have a feeling he was laid off or just graduated college or even law school and had his job offer revoked or just couldn’t get a job.

This market really sucks.

For everyone.