Opposite of BIG


As the saying goes, “The grass is always greener on the other side.” But what if the grass actually IS greener on the other side of the fence? The big firm/small firm debate is always just a matter of perspective.

All sharks, be they lemmings at a BigLaw firm or a debt-saddled associate at a boutique, have a natural disposition to see how unfair the world is to them. A lose/lose mentality. And almost all the 26-33 year old attorneys in the United States hate their jobs, regardless of their pay or their level of responsibility. Truth be told, nobody told us that associates are roughly equivalent to those shady assholes in college who offered to write your term paper for $70 and an empty keg core in college. We do other peoples’ homework.

All of us put in a lot of hours poring over documents, writing reports, familiarizing ourselves with the facts of the case, and generally busting ass so someone else can reap the rewards. It’s not fair—and it’s not supposed to be. But it’s easy to bitch and moan about the life of an associate. It’s even easier when you’re a boutique associate.

I don’t get paid half of what a BIG associate makes. Seriously. And that’s game, set, match when you’re talking to one of those douches.  They think because they’re raking in $160K that that’s how much they’re worth. And they assume I’m worth half. Beautiful; I’ve got you right where I want you. You are officially whores.

The trouble with associates caught in the BIG rat race is that they have no context. It’s not your fault: You’ve been at it for so long you don’t remember (a) what it is to be happy, or (b) what else could possibly give meaning to your lives other than perpetuating your meager existence. Money is just a number on a page, but we’re trained to think the BIG life is the pinnacle and the rest just get pegged down from there. But where is the grass really greener?

I’ve got nothing to lose. Sure, BIGs have an army behind them, and all I’ve got is a copy of MS Word from 1999 and a copier that has more jams than BET, but I still win about half the time.

I wear jeans to work, and I don’t have to pay women to spend time with me. I see movies when they come out in the theaters, not when they come out on Netflix. Cab voucher? I don’t even know what that is. I drive a Toyota Prius. (I’m also undercompensating for, well . . . .)

If I wanted a one-bedroom loft with an upside-down mortgage and a 3 Series BMW in my tandem parking spot, I know where Brentwood is. But I do real lawyer work. Six months on the job, and I know most every clerk and judge downtown. I ride my motorcycle on the weekends. I read for pleasure. I don’t need two double Grey Gooses to go to sleep at night, and I turn off the blackberry at 7:00 PM. No exceptions.

Being an associate at a BIG is indentured servitude: voluntary slavery in exchange for forty acres and a mule in the new world after you work off the debt that brought you there. Meanwhile, boutique associates may make five-figures (gasp), but we go to court three days a week. We get paid to talk and think. Summarize a depo? Waste of time. Memo to file? Who’s got the time?

Besides, I run the whole case anyway.

Yeah, my pleadings have typos. But this is state court, bitch.

I peer through the windows to gaze at my white-shoe counterparts. I deal with partners at Latham, Skadden, White & Case, and all the BIGS every day. Who do you think defends the companies I sue? The BIGs take me to Morton’s, and it goes on their expense account. A BIG gets evicted or screwed on a deal, and who do you think represents them? Would you pay $500 an hour to some pimple-faced first-year in a Brioni suit so he can run up a Lexis bill reading about higher theories of contract law? You wouldn’t. You’d go to me.

Boutique Lawyering 101: “SURE I CAN GET STARTED ON YOUR CASE TODAY. NOW ABOUT OUR RETAINER . . . .”

Mr. 162 may have fallen short of the first tier, but in these crazy economic times, “small is the new big.” Mr. 162 provides a “learner, more efficient” account of the fast-talking, no-support-staff lifestyle of a Los Angeles boutique associate. Read more from Mr. 162.

25 Comments

  1. Joe Dick

    June 4, 2009 at 4:37 am

    For a guy that is supposed to be so happy working in a “boutique” firm, this douche sure sounds bitter about the guys working for mucho dinero (the pimply faced guys making 160K and driving a BMW) while he takes on the “real” cases (slip and fall).  I think this guy is just a biglaw WANNABEE who isn’t, and the only way he gets into Mortons (other than to make a phone call or use the pisser) is if someone else is picking up the check.  BigLaw puts up with peons like this but we don’t have any envy for smallfry.  This guy wants to play in the big leagues (witness his name 162–# of major league baseball games), but he’s strictly high-school JV Material.  Plus, he’s getting no Babes with his attitude.

  2. Anonymous

    June 4, 2009 at 4:54 am

    I love the conflicted nature of guys at small shingles.  Want so desperately to believe they have the life, but still “bitter” about the big boys.

  3. Leemail

    June 4, 2009 at 5:18 am

    “Yeah, my pleadings have typos.”
    I have no doubt about this fact.  This piece is less than 1000 words and has two glaring typos:
    “pouring over documents” – It’s “poring” not “pouring”
    -and-
    “I peer through the windows of to gaze…”
    Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy.  No wonder he doesn’t command $500/hr.

  4. Anonymous

    June 4, 2009 at 5:24 am

    Bet you feel pretty damn good about yourself there, Leemail.  You’ll be giving yourself pats on the back all day for that one, won’t you?

  5. JD

    June 4, 2009 at 5:39 am

    Thank you, LeeMail.  I learned something today from you.  I had it wrong too.  As to Anonymous, stop being so smug.  Your s***t stinks too, I’m sure.

  6. manda

    June 4, 2009 at 5:44 am

    I worked in a boutique for a year, and hated every second of it.  As a first year associate, I didn’t know enough about anything to not have to research it, and I wasn’t getting paid for most of that research.  I didn’t just do divorce, I did whatever walked in the door–judgment collection, replevin, landlord tenant, contract, social security, insurance appeals, etc.  Random stuff.  I did go to court, frequently, and I hated it.  I am jealous of the big law people because they don’t go to court until after they’ve been there for years and they get paid tons.  The only thing that sounds bad about big is the hours.  I like sleep and hanging out with people too much to work those crazy hours.  And I find most of the big law lawyers to be just awful people.  I use this site to remind myself of that

  7. manda

    June 4, 2009 at 5:46 am

    so now I work government.  pretty good money and great hours equal great life!  although i do have to admist it would be great to make a ton of money

  8. Carson

    June 4, 2009 at 5:59 am

    TTT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. TTT associate

    June 4, 2009 at 7:26 am

    You guys should really lay off the whole TTT thing.  It just makes you snobs look like douchebags.

    Besides, I work with a bunch of lawyers who all went to Third tier law schools, and we ROUTINELY (as in more than 60%) beat the big guys in litigation.

    Not the mention, since I do all the research and responses to the stuff we get from BigLaw – I get to see just who sloppy you guys really are.  Thanks for all the typos and template motions you guys use, it makes it that much easier for us medium and smaller firms to kick your butts.
    P.S. I’ll admit I am a tad bitter about the money.  Who wouldn’t want to make the big bucks.  But for now, I’m content with making 5-figures.  Also, a bunch of my friends do work in BigLaw, and they aren’t bad people.  They only complaint about the partners, not the associates.

  10. Schaddenfreude

    June 4, 2009 at 7:39 am

    Manda….. A small firm that does whatever walks in the door is, by definition, not a boutique.  You might have had more fun if you were in a specialized place where you were mentored and did not have to research every little thing. Good for you on the gov’t route though. I know many a big-firm associate who wants to do that right now, despite the pay cut.

  11. Schaddenfreude

    June 4, 2009 at 7:41 am

    And TTT Associate, you have a valid point. A very valid point. Which is why I am so sad to see numerous and glaring TTTypos in your comment. Uck.

  12. Information

    June 4, 2009 at 8:28 am

  13. Anonymous

    June 4, 2009 at 8:42 am

    There is nothing wrong with TTT schools.  They have historically turned out the hottest law babes (10 on the legal scale; 6.4 on the regular female scale)

  14. Magic Circle Jerk

    June 4, 2009 at 9:50 am

    Whatever helps you sleep at night…..
    (actually, fairly well written)

  15. BL1Y

    June 4, 2009 at 11:06 am

    Leemail: I also didn’t know it was poring instead of pouring, thanks.  Now, off to go dip my pen in the company whale….

  16. Burn Notice

    June 4, 2009 at 11:53 am

    Come on BL’s are you all English/Lit majors, briefs are not being written here -just enjoy

  17. Mr. Mcruff

    June 4, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    Hahahah, I feel exactly the same way!!

  18. Anon_0L

    June 4, 2009 at 7:19 pm

    boutique my ass. I thought ‘boutique’ was used to refer to extremely specialized firms with fewer attorneys that only hired laterals and paid just as much or more than BIGLAW. Things like IP boutiques or Tax law firms.
    This dude works at shitlaw. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s the truth. Calling it a ‘boutique’ is more than just gilding the lily, it’s trying to pretend that your toyota camry is just as nice as BMW, really. Accept who you are, and live with it.

  19. westcoaster

    June 4, 2009 at 7:45 pm

    it’s a toss up there are pros and cons to both, but I am more of a big firmer I think

  20. boutique lawyer

    June 5, 2009 at 6:07 am

    yeah, as someone who works at a real “boutique law firm,” i just wanted to clarify that the term refers to a small firm that specializes in a certain aspect of the law. for instance, my small firm does only employment defense, but we rep a good # of large corporate clients that use BL firms for most of their legal work b/c we have a great reputation in this one aspect of law, we won’t rack up a crazy number of billable hrs on issues we deal w/ all the time, and even if a bigfirm refers its client to us, it has no fear that we will poach the client bc we do only one type of law. as to pay, associates at our firm prob start making slightly less, but after a few years, they make about the same or more than BL counterparts.

  21. manda

    June 5, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    ok, yeah, i wondered at first if they only did one thing.  i wasn’t sure.

  22. Anon

    June 6, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    opposite of BIG is small.

  23. BL1Y

    June 8, 2009 at 3:31 am

    Opposite of BIG is AIDAN.

  24. dc jayhawk

    June 8, 2009 at 6:12 am

    Wow the artwork looks like William Joyce, but no attribution–a copyright faux pas?

  25. Danny2L

    June 8, 2009 at 11:11 pm

    grass always seems greener on the other side.

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