Saturday, September 6, 2008

Day in the Life (part 5)

Jack picks up the phone and jumps right into the belly of the beast:

“Jack, listen, client Big Brother is, once again, intent on taking over the world. Could you please do X, Y and Z to see if we can help them out? Definitely appreciate it! Oh, and by the way, could you do it yesterday?"

This pattern is repeated over and over again throughout the day. Jack listens for instructions and does his job as best he can, all the while hoping that it is enough to keep the phone calls away. Inevitably, stacks of paper start to pile up on his desk and begin overflowing onto window ledges and floor space. At times, Jack feels like he is floating on a vast, endless ocean of paper, screaming at a torrential storm of pens, legal pads and overwhelming responsibility. He knows the sad, inevitable truth: the law firm is a ferocious, starving beast that can never be satisfied.

By the time the clock hits 8pm the splitting headache that started during that 2pm conference call has settled into a more manageable throb. He changes clothes, dons his bike helmet and waddles through a sea of paper, ready to fight the cabs again.


The Executioner said...

I'm not employed in the legal profession, but I can empathize. Corporations are never satisfied these days. I find myself baffled by "business partners" who seem perfectly willing to work long hours, nights, weekends, and so forth, and expect the same of others. What is their driving motivation? Previous generations dreamed of less labor as a result of the Industrial Revolution, but we seem to have somehow created even more work for ourselves along the way. Like you, my wife and I hope to remove ourselves from this endless cycle of ever-increasing work as soon as possible. Life is short. No need to spend it in a corporate hell.

Anonymous said...

Run.......Jack......Run..............this type of life will give you physical health ailment.........gosh, I did not know how it was to be a lawyer.......they show the lawyers on t.v. just court casing; and not in front of paperwork; the other workers get the paperwork done.. (paralegals), you really should get out of that......the stress is not good.

You know the theory 'flight versus fight' when a stress situation arises.... and this modern world just gives you stress that you are going to take internal and cause damage.. to your health (bettyann) Nyc.

Jennifer @ Conversion Diary said...

My husband tells the story of the time he was with Major Manhattan Law Firm and headed into some skyscraper for a billion-dollar closing that would make headlines the next day. He saw this relaxed, happy couple in nice clothes get into the elevator to the left to go to the restaurant in the building. It was 8:00pm, and he'd been pulling 14- to 18-hour days for more than a week (I assume you know that I mean a week straight, no weekends off). He looked at the couple, and they startled him into remembering that there are actually people in the world with normal lives. He'd been in the corporate law game so long that he'd almost forgotten, everyone trying to tell themselves a story about why what they were doing was a good use of time.

This story came up when he was showing me a little gold plaque he got from working on the deal -- all those hours out of his life, all the stories the lawyers told themselves about how hot and glamorous this was, and all he had to show for it was a plaque about the size of your hand. It was less than a year later that he walked away from that world.

You'll be so glad when you make this lifestyle change. You will probably get a lot of pressure not to do so (as my husband did), but you'll never regret it.

Elizabeth Halt said...

Man, that sounds rough. I see the "never satisfied" at work too, though I am fortunate enough to work in a group that does care whether we have a life outside of work or not.

Why is there paper, though, LOL. I thought computers were eradicating the need for paper. I tried to explain this to my apartment people when I renewed my lease but yet I still had to sign 13 pages by hand.

Anonymous said...

I was once a part of the working world.... all day, mandated overtime, who cares if you have kids right?

Having a relationship with the person I loved.... what was that? I even went to the doctor to try to understand what was wrong with me...

He said, "Dana, you need a vacation."

When Ryan died, I realized he was right.

you need a vacation.... or just more then a few hours away from what you do everyday....


Heather's Moving Castle said...

And reading about our day made you sleepy? But your day makes me want to cry. My husband spent 40K on a degree for a job that wanted him to work 60 hours a week. The pay started out nice, but then dot coms crashed and 9/11 happened and he decided to bail on that career. He doesn't miss long hours away from us.

I know you won't miss the b.s. either. When do you it Dec. 2008 or 2009?

kate said...

Jack, you have an intelligent, thoughtful head on your shoulders. It sounds to me like some of these posts are ways of thinking it through. That's good!

I'm an attorney in NY and never had a job like yours in 17 years. The past 8 years I have been my own boss and I only work a minimal amount of hours for pay and volunteer many hours that I never total up because there is nothing to prove.

I created a simple life I enjoy, a modest house in the city and a tiny camp in the mountains I love. I travel when I want to. My heart is in East Africa, where I've spent time with refugees who have been through hell.

Listen, you are obviously capable of making your own choices, but I'd suggest bailing earlier. See what you can do -- do the math, etc. -- to see about leaving January 1.

That's what I'd be suggesting if you were here sharing a beer with me.

All the best to you!


Jack said...


What really gets me going is looking at some stats about the legal profession going back decades. As it turns out, lawyers are working a whole lot more, for a whole lot less adjusting for inflation. Lawyers in the 50s would be home for dinner. Unbelievable.


Yeah, definitely need to run. :) and I am, really. Just doing it in slow motion; basically doing it in an organized way.


Wow, I have similar stories...the most recent just this past labor day weekend. Nothing like leaving the office on a sunday, walking past a ton of people in shorts on their way to the beach...And btw, will probably get in touch with you the closer I get to the end of this thing. Would love some input from you and from your husband.

Jack said...


Yeah the paper is always annoying. :) I have a feeling there is always more paper whenever it comes to lawyers, much more than any other profession.


Yeah, I think in my next life I am going to push to have an accommodating job. Always good for family life or course!


Sounds like what happened to your hubby was a blessing in disguise. Imagine how much less close you guys are because he is not part of the rat race. Work can be annoying, but there is such a thing as insanity when it comes to long hours. And its Dec 2009. Yeah, it's a way off, but need to do this in a good, organized way.

Anonymous said...

AUK! RUN! Get it done yesterday? Be the peon doing the work for someone else to take over the world? Only one way to deal with all that....ROAD TRIP.

Jack said...


Excuse the tardiness of this response. Thanks for the comment. In fact, I have done precisely that. Have tabulated the numbers and can probably leave earlier than I originally planned. :) Would love to hear about your life; sounds like we have a ton in common.


Road trip will have to be planned for sure!