I Feel Worthless and Inferior to BigLaw Snobs


AI’m a 1L at a TTT school (peanut gallery: keep the derogatory comments to a minimum please) with a median GPA, so transferring right now is out of the question. I’ve had a summer clerkship for a federal court judge out of state, and I have absolutely no desire to go BigLaw after seeing how miserable it has made my father and other people that I know.

At the same time, I don’t want to end up an ambulance chaser. I worked for a borderline one, and I ended up loathing him—plus the ethical issues ended up giving me nightmares. Ideally, I’d like to work for a boutique firm (entertainment law is preferable because the legal side is actually interesting, and I want to keep struggling performers from getting screwed like so many of my friends have) or for the government.

Yes, I’m more focused on being a lawyer and doing lawyerly things than making money. But lately I’ve been feeling down because of my grades and all of the chatter out there about how if you’re from TTT, the closest you’ll come to a courtroom is when you’re fighting the repo man from taking your meager possessions.

I like the law and am committed to what I want to do (for the most part), but the severe focus on money and the constant berating of anyone who isn’t from a T14 with a 3.9 GPA has made depression set in, to say the least. Should I keep my debt to a minimum, just bail out after the summer and go seek employment serving my government/community elsewhere? Or is there hope outside of BigLaw for people who aren’t anywhere near an HYS 4.0?

ATake a deep breath and repeat after me: There is hope outside of BigLaw. There is hope outside of BigLaw. In fact, if you ask me, there’s a lots more hope outside of BigLaw than inside of BigLaw. But that’s another story.

Law is obviously a snobby, elitist profession. Fact. Schools, grades, Law Review all matter. Fact.

It’s frustrating, I know, but that’s the way it is. Why? Because all of these annoying, objective criteria actually matter. I mean, if you were hiring from law schools, wouldn’t you want to select the best of the best?  I would.

Having said that, it actually doesn’t really matter that much. Honestly. I know that sounds paradoxical, but it isn’t. Schools and grades matter to BigLaw for students coming out of school. But schools and grades don’t matter when it actually comes to being a successful lawyer.

Clearly, great lawyers come from all walks of life and all law schools. It’s just that when you’re in law school—and reading websites like Bitter Lawyer—you start to think that everyone in the world went to Yale, clerked for the Supreme Court, and speaks 12 languages.

The good news: According to your email, you have no interest in BigLaw. So what’s this problem? This whole resume inferiority complex thing you have going is a total waste of time.  Like I said, the only part of the law is relentlessly elitist is BigLaw. The rest of the legal world doesn’t really care. They’re too busy working to worry about grades or the U.S News rankings.

As for this part:

”But lately I’ve been feeling down because of my grades and all of the chatter out there about how if you’re from TTT, the closest you’ll come to a courtroom is when you’re fighting the repo man from taking your meager possessions.”

I couldn’t disagree more. TTT grads live in the courtroom. They’re DA’s, PD’s, plaintiffs’ attorneys, litigation generalists, etc. In other words, they’re real lawyers, doing real things.

BigLaw chumps (like I was) are doc bitches who draft and review memos and documents for the first five years of their career. If they actually get to go to court, they’ll be sitting in the back, keeping their mouths shut. It’s more like a field trip than an actual litigation experience.

No one can tell you what makes sense for your career. If you really want to make a difference (and you really like law), there’s no reason not to finish your education and pursue your dreams. But no matter what, don’t ever let a bunch of dorky BigLaw blog-frequenting snots and trolls dissuade you from finishing school or chasing your dreams.

Ex-Bitter is a former big firm lawyer who now doles out advice to anyone who asks. Got a question? Email it to advice@bitterlawyer.com. Or read more Advice from an Ex-Bitter.

20 Comments

  1. Guano Dubango

    February 12, 2010 at 4:09 am

    I agree, man.  I know people from Big-Law and for the most part, they are not impressive.  I went to law school in Ghana, and there are better lawyers in Ghana than many big-law.  If you continue to feel inferior, get an LLM like I did.  This way, you will be able to have a recognized degree from a name university, and women will cuddle up to you since they think you will be able to support them in a lavish lifestyle.  Whether you want to or not, you can always use your degree as a way to sample different women, and stay away from the ones that look like water buffalo.  I recommend you finish law school at the TTT, try and get some job, and if you can’t, enroll at Georgetown, get your LLM, and then proceed to sample all of the good looking women you can, while you are young enough to appreciate them.  You can then get a good job for the government and work 35 hours a week.

  2. thenambypamby

    February 12, 2010 at 7:00 am

    I am not a biglaw lawyer but I do enter their world on certain cases now and then. (I also do chase an ambulance here and there.)

    But here I am, in my third year as an associate, and I get to deal with two BigLaw Partners on a multi-million dollar case.  I don’t feel inferior to them.  I laugh when they send me emails at 11pm at night.  I don’t give a flying F*** that they make 25 times more than I do.  I know that when the time comes my degree won’t be hanging above counsel’s table in the Courtoom.

    The point is, the only one that can make you feel inferior is you.  And Above the Law.

  3. Anon

    February 12, 2010 at 7:22 am

    thenambypamby:  True that.  It’s just a damn degree.  I used to work in BigLaw (Cravath).  I went to a t15 school and was on law revie, but they made me feel like I went to some unaccredited night school in South Dakota.  Screw that. It’s silly. And the truth is, it just doesn’t matter.

  4. Pacific Reporter

    February 12, 2010 at 7:59 am

    Drop out now. You’re fucked. You’ll never make enough money to pay back your law school debt. At this point, a better investment would be to literally set your money on fire.

  5. Big Jim

    February 12, 2010 at 8:58 am

    Hang in there and keep fighting—If you want to be a lawyer, that is.  If you’re just going to school to please your daddy, or to impress your friends, then drop out.

  6. Craig

    February 12, 2010 at 9:35 am

    What kind of job do you think you are going to get if you drop out?  It is not like it will be any better for a law school dropout.  Plus, the biglaw dipshits all expect to make well over 100k and work for the most prestigious firms in the world right out of the gate.  The type of law firms you want to work for are looking for lawyers that they can pay well under 100k, think the 50k range, maybe slightly more, and that is where you come in.  It won’t be easy to find a job, but it will be a lot easier, and the potential pay will be better, if you finish it out.

  7. Stand Up and Fight

    February 12, 2010 at 9:49 am

    If you don’t have the fight in you now to get past this hump, you might rethink returning after the summer. Practicing law entails going to battle every day and knowing which battles to care about and which ones to ignore. It is your decision, but the sooner you stop worrying about what some jackass / parent / other thinks about your school, your grades and what suit you are wearing, the better. Be a better lawyer than him/her and force him/her to focus on what matters—winning and keeping the client. Or find another way to serve the community.

  8. R Smith

    February 12, 2010 at 10:05 am

    If you were here, I’d slap you like Patton slapped that whining soldier. Or yell at you like the Godfather did to that singer (” you can act like a man!”). But the post that said “the only one that can make you feel inferior is you” is right. And you have done it.  But why? It seems you don’t want a biglaw position anyway. You want to represent struggling artists. Good. There’s a lot of money in that too. So go do it already and quit whining. Actors and actresses toil in obscurity trying to make it sustained only by their dream. Students immolate themselves trying to get into med school.  You’re already halfway toward your dream and whining already.  Go live your dream. Your life. Get out of the crowded commuter lane and take a side street.  The pyramids at big law are crowded right now. 20 years from now, you’ll have a Bently despite yourself and be extraordinarily happy and a studio will probably hire you as the CEO.

  9. Pub Defender

    February 12, 2010 at 10:56 am

    Why do you want to be a lawyer?  What do you like about it?  What do you want to do as a lawyer?  I think more law students and prospecitve law students really need to consider those things before going to law school, or into the legal profession.  Find out what you want to do and try your best to get into that area.  I think when you are in law school there is a big push to go into big law, they make it seem so sexy and it also seems like EVERYONE (but you) is getting offers.  That’s not exactly true and many of those who go into big law really hate it and want to get out.  Many leave with NO court room experience.  You may need to adjust your expectations however, if you are not going into big law.  My big law friends all drive nice cars, unfortunately my public interest friends and I are still driving shit box Honda’s from the late 1980s.

  10. prog

    February 12, 2010 at 11:33 am

    Entertainment law is a tough area to get into for anyone.  Lots and lots of and lots of people want to be in the entertainment business and that goes for lawyers too.  Don’t give up on that dream, but you really need to commit to busting your ass to get high grades and getting as much real work experience as possible if you want to have a chance.  Truth is, coming from a TTT school, busting your ass to get the best grades and best work experience possible should be your overall goal no matter what.  I don’t know why your grades are “median”, but you need to do whatever you have to to get them up.  That will really make a big difference in looking for work after school.  Outside of Biglaw, most small firms and government employers aren’t going to care that you went to a TTT school if you can demonstrate you worked really hard there and especially if you got real world practical skills at internships during your time there.  The clerkship is definitely a great start.  Make sure you have some sort of internship, either for credit or otherwise, during your entire remaining semesters and summers.

  11. Ha Ha

    February 12, 2010 at 11:45 am

    You ARE worthless and inferior to BigLaw snobs, if how much you make is any measure.  The question is just whether it is, for you.

  12. manda

    February 13, 2010 at 6:03 am

    law school made me feel the same way you do.  don’t worry, it will pass.

  13. BT

    February 14, 2010 at 10:22 am

    BigLaw dorks who try to make you feel like you’re inferior do so because they spend their whole day catching the same from a partner whose ego and a bottle of $300 single malt are the only consolations he has for a spiteful, botox-laden hooker of a wife and pre-teen children with drug habits.
    BigLaw is like Greek Life on campus.  You get a clerkship, they wine and dine you, pay you totally unreasonable sums of money for doing nothing, and then you pledge.  Once hell week starts, though, it lasts 5-7 years, and at the end you’re left with a $300 bottle of single malt and your wife’s $24k credit card bill for a place calling itself a “MedSpa.”
    I went boutique and love it.

  14. Alma Federer

    February 14, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    Do NOT listen to the dummies on this sight.  I did not go to Harvard, but I worked hard and got an internship.  The managing partner liked me and made me an offer. So I was able to forge ahead even without an Ivy League degree.  You can too.  Just keep your head down and work hard, and do not get distracted by dummies that want to put you down.  They are no better.

  15. BL1Y

    February 14, 2010 at 8:24 pm

    Alma, what the hell is an internship?  Did you work as a runner in college or something?

  16. Garbage

    February 14, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    Oh no another TTT grad that wants to practice Entertaiment Law!!! Come on….get realistic. Unless your mom or dad is a film director/Sony Music big wig/agent you can forget it. Biglaw and boutiques that do Ent law are reserved for the Harvard Yale law grads withh fed clerkships….unless you have contacts.
    Biglaw may suck…but it gives you alot of exit options. People saying how it doesn’t mattter are full of it. I know I have tried to pay off $150k in loans earning between $46k and $66k…it sucks. Meanwhile in the past 3 years alot of my friends in Biglaw have paid off all their private loans and have parachuted out to some great in house or federal gig.
    It really is the Penthouse or the outhouse in law.

  17. BL1Y

    February 15, 2010 at 9:01 am

    If I knew how great entertainment law was supposed to be, and how hard it is to break into, then I would have taken David Sedaris up on his offer to hire me as his lawyer.  Though, I think by “lawyer” he may have meant “butt buddy.” …Either way it’d be better than working in a law firm.

  18. Let it sparkle

    February 16, 2010 at 11:19 am

  19. Jimmy

    February 22, 2010 at 6:44 pm

    I would have no quibble with BigLaw elitism if these people were actually superior lawyers. But too many of them aren’t, and.THAT’S the source of our resentment, not the money they make.
    See, BigLaw hires on the basis of ostensible credentials, not actual ability. If you went to a fancy school, you’re in. If not, you’re out. Why? Because above all else, what BIgLaw wants from a new hire is NOT quality legal work but the chance to write “Harvard Law School, J.D., 2010” under his name on the firm’s web site.
    BigLaw knows that hiring kids from fancy schools increases the prestige of the firm and thereby helps the firm get clients. And that’s the name of the game: getting clients. After all, most of the work that they hand out to new associates is stuff that a monkey could do, so actual legal ability is almost irrelevant until you’ve been with the firm 3-5 years, and even then, it’s hardly rocket science.

  20. Ellen

    November 10, 2011 at 8:31 am

    I agree. You do NOT need a FEDERAL clerkshep to be sucessful. Right now, I am working in a small firm and have an assistant who I share with the manageing partner. The only thing I do NOT like is that the manageing partner always is so busy stareing at me that I get Flustered! He also likes to give me hints on how to dress, but I do NOT like his sugestions. I think he thinks I am his “baby-doll” but I am not. I want a boyfreiend my OWN age, and he has bad breathe and he is MARRIED anyway. Why is it so dificult to find a decent guy who will MARRY me? Fooey!

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