After almost five years of epic BigLaw drudgery and misery, I finally decided it was time to choose lifestyle over status and pay. In other words, I joined a small firm, a/k/a “a litigation boutique.” Trouble is, I’m realizing that my decision was completely flawed because it was based on the faulty assumption that the small firm I was joining would offer me something positive in exchange for each trade-off. Unfortunately, almost a year has passed, and I now realize that there’s been nothing but negatives. Lest any other BigLaw mid-level associate fall for the same foolishness, I’ve compiled a list of the things I hate about small firm practice:
1. I work just as much—for less pay. It used to take me 6.5 days of work per week to bill about 60 hours on two enormous cases. Now I spend the same amount of time trying to force 40 billables from the eight piddly cases I work on. I die a little inside every time I enter a 2.2 increment on my timesheet.
2. I miss my view. It was somehow more pleasurable to suffer on a daily basis against the backdrop of a 29th floor view of downtown Chicago. The long, dark winters seem even darker from my current office, which features a second floor view of the back of a weird old hotel.
3. Less people in the office means I’m easier to keep track of. Gone are the days when I could get away with rolling in hungover at 11:00 a.m. by simply putting on a suit and pretending I had an early status conference in state court.
4. One secretary and one paralegal for eight attorneys. My ego might never recover from how ridiculously difficult it was for me to figure out how to use the fax machine—and I still haven’t completely mastered printing Avery address labels. Not to mention the hellish experience of assembling multiple copy sets of exhibits for depositions and motions. Come to think of it, I have no idea why legal secretaries and paralegals aren’t on constant suicide watch.
5. No more word processing department. How in the hell am I supposed to figure out how to make a freaking table of contents for a brief in support of a motion for summary judgment?
6. No more docketing department. I have to actually file things myself now. I keep running into the docket clerks from my old firm in the Law Division filing lines, and they avoid making eye contact because they’re embarrassed for me.
7. The fact that everyone assumes I do insurance defense and worker’s comp when I tell them the size of my firm.
8. No more summer associates, which means no more Cubs games and free cocktail hours. And fewer dating prospects.
9. Clients actually call me directly. I had absolutely no idea how irritating they are. No wonder the partners at my old firm hated their lives so much.
10. Having to work on depressing things like foreclosures and collection actions, where the status calls seem like a law school reunion for the bottom half of my class. I can tell they’re all wondering why I’m slumming in Chancery.
11. Feeling actually responsible for the cases I work on.
12. Only one floor of offices. I sorely miss being able to seek privacy for certain types of bathroom issues in the always-empty women’s restroom on the desolate 28th floor of my old firm.