the lawyer writer

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Sunday, April 17, 2005

My Fellow (Slinky, Opinionated) Female Bloggers

It's a bit embarrassing to admit, but I don't read many blogs regularly. I check up on my girl bunnyshop to see what stylish items I would be buying if I had money, and I browse through Wonkette for some political info (though history has proven their election predictions to be a little suspect). And, of course, like many New Yorkers, I browse on occasion to see what Paris Hilton accessory (chihuahua, Sidekick, Nicole Ritchie) has recently been misplaced.

A recent visit to The Gawker, however, filled me with blog-envy, as I saw an excerpt from a blog called opinionistas. As it is a blog written by a hip, young, female attorney who lives in Manhattan, the situation was further exacerbated by the fact that two well-meaning friends sent me the link to say "uh-oh. another lawyer-writer and SHE'S on" Oh, dear.

A well-known fact is that the vast majority of bloggers and blog-readers are male, usually white male. Perhaps only white males have access to computers--I don't know. But since it's nice to support the sisterhood, I decided to take a look at both Opinionistas, and another girl-blog, The Slinky Cat Speaks. This last is primarily because The Slinky Cat has been nice enough to post comments on my blog from time to time.

This is what I have deduced about my fellow bloggers. My immediate reaction is that I would probably enjoy having drinks with the chick behind Opinionistas. She's creative, she hates Sex and the City, she's unafraid to bash lawyers and the law life, and she does it in full rant mode. I find her writing a little undisciplined and hard to follow, but that's to be expected from a blog that aspires to be an "interior monologue on the computer screen." In substance, a lot what she has to say about the law is on target (more on that below). Slinkycat is focused in terms of a topic, but I find that her subject matter often parallels mine: odd New York moments, parties, gossip, confrontations, self-deprecation. I identify most when it's personal--about herself rather than about the world. I have a sneaky suspicion that she is not based in the U.S., though I'm not sure why. I'm also not sure that she's a lawyer.

Both are hugely entertaining looks at the lives of young women-writers, sort of an alternative to the dreaded chick lit. I have to admit I turned a little green on The Slinky Cat's exegesis on the relationship between Carrie and Mr. Big, but for the most part, I find her writing and life generally pretty damn funny. So she is linked at the left.

There's no question that I find a lot interesting in Opinionistas as well. La Opinionista herself appears to live in Soho and work for an employment law firm. A friend noted that since she is still filled with fire and brimstone, that she is probably a recent graduate and junior associate. I asked someone whose opinion I respect if he felt that her descriptions of lawyers and law firms was accurate, and he felt it was. I myself don't have such colorful stories, as I felt utterly beaten down by my law firm the minute they took the photo for my i.d. badge. I remember only walking down maroon corridors filled with perplexing modern art and feeling vaguely that I'd been taken hostage by drafting and collating terrorists. Now that I'm safely out of that world, I don't have as much anger about it as Opinionistas does.

What I found most interesting were the various comments after Opinionistas' blurb on Almost all were from fellow attorneys. Many commended her wit and her accuracy in depicting what people don't know about law life. But quite a few others seemed offended by it. This last group of attorneys seemed united by one common theme; namely "you knew what the life was when you chose it, so you have no right to complain." Interestingly, this is also the justification of paparazzi hounds for their lifestyle and career choice. To wit: "I have a right to chase J.Lo down a dark alley because she knew that this was part of the celebrity life when she chose it, and therefore cannot complain when I take pictures of her thong underwear when she trips and lands on her face." I didn't buy it then, and I don't buy it now.

I do some work for a legal publisher, and part of my job is going through mountains of confidential feedback from associates at both small and large law firms. Everybody hates their hours, but they are terrified to admit it openly. Instead, everyone says "the hours suck, but I knew that when I picked this job." I applaud their foresight. I, personally, thought the work was going to be much more intellectual, the hours much more manageable, and the job much more satisfying. I am still not quite sure by what process the large urban law firm manages to suck the life marrow out of your bones, but I suspect it has to do with the fact that you are suddenly faced with adoration and acceptance by society at large (you're a lawyer, you must be smart!) and treated as disposable as a tampon by your boss and co-workers. I think this identity crisis is at the core of lawyer burnout.

I'd like to see opinionistas give in less frequently to her anger and delve a little deeper into why firms and lawyers are the way they are. I feel like she could come up with some real gold on the subject. Furthermore, I do find one thing in common with her critics--namely, if she hates it as much as she seems to, why is she still practicing at this firm? But, in the meantime, she's linked at left as well, and I look forward to following her battles with the inexplicable, many-tentacled monster that is the law firm world.


Blogger Slinky said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:36 PM  
Blogger Opinionista said...

Sure, a drink sounds lovely, thanks for the offer. One point: I find it fascinating the assumptions people draw. Who says I haven't already left the juggernaut law firm world for a kinder gentler place? Why assume that my posts are complaints rather than mere attempts to stir a few gucci-clad feathers and create a dialogue? Lets just call my observations what they are: a crusade to rescue my brilliant and creative but intensely miserable friends rather than a whining diatribe about my own situation.

2:05 PM  
Blogger Slinky Cat said...

Opinionista - I found that no matter how miserable, some people are there because they want to be, brilliant though they may be. Sometimes it's the prestige of the big name firms that draw them sometimes it's the kick of being able to say "I'm a lawyer' when the inevitable "So, what do you do?" question pops up at dinner parties, and sometimes it's just the fear of taking the leap into the unknown. They all whine about how miserable they are, but they never leave.

Your posts are terribly fun to read, nonetheless. :)

And yes, lawyerwriter, I am a lawyer. But I plan to change that.

9:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Opinionista - as one of the men who recommended lawyerwriter to your blog, I speak from cross-benches. I arrived at a Biglaw firm after taking a couple more years and doing a couple more things than other first-years. This both stood me in good stead to advance quickly and helped me to burn out quickly. As lawyerwriter says - the social-acceptance vs. fungibility conflict plays out. It plays out faster if you arrive with world experiences, less need of acceptance, and more resistance to fungibility.

Why do people rationalize their biglaw hours agains their pay? For the same cognitive-dissonance reasons that most people rationalize unfavorable situations - it can't be a terrible mistake or I wouldn't be doing it.

The only tragedy in it is for those young associates who actually have another passion or deep interest they could turn into a career. I've seen that squeezed out of too many people. By fourth year the Stockholm Syndrome is complete.

A very few characters can maintain an interesting and rewarding life in a firm - they're either very headstrong themselves or have worked into a practice area that's a little more humane, often both. But the pool of fungible corporate and litigation associates deteriorate to the lowest common denominator of excellence - which is reliable efficiency rather than genius.

2:44 PM  
Blogger Indefensible said...

I am still not quite sure by what process the large urban law firm manages to suck the life marrow out of your bones...

My theory:

In Discipline and Punish, Michel Foucault suggests that the more advanced a society is, the more subtle the modes and means of penal control. If big law firms are anything, they are proof of this thesis. In my brief stint there, I was amazed at how controlling, an advanced society like a law firm could be and how brilliant and brutal and subtle their penal control. Almost every day, one or another of my bright-eyed colleagues would rush into my office detailing, in a barely controlled whisper what partner had assigned what assignment to what associate, who had gone where and who’s fortunes were rising and whose were falling. Everything was about insuring that no one else was making corporate inroads any faster or more effectively than anyone else.

Associates are slaves, but they are slaves because they are complicit in their own slavery--reliant on the money, dependent of the prestige, and inately competitive. They are the people used to success, and firms are brilliant about doling out the feeling of success in ways sufficiently nigardly to insure dependence...

I think Opinionista has it pretty much nailed.

9:32 PM  
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