It's a Wonderful Life
California Lawyer

It's a Wonderful Life

April 2010

Dear Editor:
Let me start by making one thing clear: I don't own any rose-colored glasses. Nor do I have stars in my eyes - or anything in my eyes, for that matter. That said, I just have to express my concern about your magazine's recent This Associate's Life columns. Month after month you have published a series of increasingly negative rants by anonymous young associates whining about how horrible their working lives are. Well, as an associate at one of the world's biggest law firms, I respectfully object.

Don't get me wrong - I've had my share of grueling days (and nights) at the office. But I can't help but think that recent authors of this column have overlooked some of the more obvious perks - yes, even pleasures - of working as a young lawyer in a big firm.

Consider, for example, what may be the most rewarding aspect of the job: helping people. Yes, I know it sounds hackneyed, but it's absolutely true. With the incredible resources available at firms like mine, we can help clients in ways they could never help themselves. Just last week, for example, I helped close a merger involving a major pharmaceutical company that paid our client's CEO $17.6 million in one day. And he didn't even have to do anything. If I hadn't spent several hundred hours over the past few months combing through piles of paper and sleeping at the office on his behalf, his payout might not have reached even seven figures. Really, how many jobs out there let you say that at the end of the day?

Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't admit that there are a few selfish perks of big-firm life. For starters, I never have to worry about traffic - and I live in Los Angeles! See, when you're going to and/or leaving work at 4 a.m., you're pretty much guaranteed smooth sailing.

Then, of course, there are the health-related benefits. Thanks to the kind efforts of my employer, my chances of developing skin cancer are about 645 percent smaller than those of the general population. That's one of the upshots of spending 23.8 out of every 24 hours indoors. Not too shabby. And the perks don't stop there: Take sexually transmitted diseases, for example. It breaks my heart when I read about their staggering prevalence among people my age. Some may argue that's just part of being a young person. Well, not for this young person! What's that saying, "The best prevention for an STD is abstinence"? If that's the case, consider me a poster child of prevention.

Speaking of abstinence, how many times have you seen a friend or coworker emotionally destroyed by a romantic breakup? Well, imagine a world where that never happens to you. A world where you don't waste hours pining for someone you'll never see, only to be paralyzed with heartache once they move on; a world where the chaos of a break-up is obviated by the lack of any sort of romantic relationship at all - or even the potential for one. That, friends, is my world. I know, I know - I, too, can hardly believe my luck. Honestly, I don't understand why firms don't put this in their recruiting brochures.

Now, I'll admit that sometimes it gets to me when I hear my non-lawyer friends talk about going to the beach, trying out new restaurants, shopping, and generally soaking in the splendors of sunny, gorgeous Southern California. But then I gaze out my office window, into the apartment that's only five feet away, and immediately I feel better. See, I never have to wonder about all the amazing things that I'm missing right outside my window, because the only thing right outside my window is the old woman who lives next door, standing over her stove top every morning, dressed in nothing but a Miami Dolphins sweatshirt, frying eggs.

So, go ahead - call me a cockeyed optimist, call me indefatigably positive. I can't help it. But would it be so wrong for this magazine to broaden the scope of its editorials to include the brighter side of big-firm life? I'm not a gambler, but I'd bet it'll make at least a few of your readers rethink what it's like to be an associate in today's legal market.

Thank you-and have a great day!

Paul E. Anna is a pseudonym for a junior associate at a large Southern California law firm.

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