Want to know what life is really like inside a big, New York law firm? Most of the associates and partners you meet, even as a Summer Associate, are probably not going to give their honest opinion. For that, the best place to go is the blogosphere and one of the best (and most widely read) blogs going is Opinionistas (opinionistas.blogspot.com). It’s a hilarious and cynically insightful running commentary on the life of a young Manhattan lawyeress, exposing the seamy underbelly of her massive firm. The site received over 300,000 hits in the first few months of its existence and currently has over 250 links from other blogs (according to Technorati, a blog tracking service). Contrary to rumor, she is not an alter-ego for The Record’s own Jeremy Blachman (of anonymouslawyer fame) and her blog is all true, although it is anonymous (and devoid of any identifying details to protect her identity and job) and draws from experiences she has had at several law firms in various capacities over the course of the past few years, other than her present one. Recently, The Record caught up with the woman herself at a downtown Manhattan coffee house to ask a few questions about blogs and the law.
Anonymous_HLS_2007: How did this whole thing start?
O: I’ve been an insomniac since my senior year in college, and I started seeing all these sleep specialists. One of the things about a firm job is that they give you great healthcare. You can see any doctor you want in the city because they want to keep you healthy and working at all times. One of them asked me, “Well, are you writing a journal? Do you like writing? It might help, you should keep a journal or a blog or something,” and a little lightbulb went off. So I went home and in about five minutes had the site up and running. I’m sure there are a lot of other bankers and lawyers out there who would benefit from purging in a journal at the end of the day. Ironically, I write the blog when I get home at night and early in the morning before work, so I get around the same amount of sleep now as I did before. But I’m a lot happier. Anonymous_HLS_2007: Take yourself back even further: how did you get started as BigLaw associate?
O: In New York, we’re big players, or so we think. Lawyers, bankers, consultants want the big money and the long hours and we say “screw you if you can’t take it.” I love that attitude, to be honest. That’s why I came here and won’t consider leaving, but, at the same time, it’s gotten to the point of ridiculousness. The firm attitude becomes a form of mind control. You find yourself sitting at work saying “I’m exhausted. I haven’t slept in three days, but no, no I can’t go home because I’m afraid of what’ll happen. I must do whatever it takes to keep this job, or else I’ll be a failure since I’ve been working toward this my entire adult life.”
I have no excuse for ending up where I am, really, and I have no regrets. I made my choices. I was a paralegal at a massive firm; I saw what it was like. I submitted to the powers of status and parental pressure and I never considered not going to law school. I would do it again. But I have no intention of staying at a firm and following the “right” path now that I’m here. Do I want to leave the whole law firm thing? Sure. I’ve figured that out by now. If I get “outed,” fired and blacklisted for the blog, the decision will be made for me I suppose.
Anonymous_HLS_2007: How come you’re still sticking around?
O: I’ve already heard from a few students saying “I was thinking of doing firm recruiting, but now I’m not, after reading your blog. I know I won’t be happy at a firm.” That’s vindication for me – I’m not just sitting here wasting my time in some office making a CEO another hundred million richer today, I actually helped someone make a decision in their life; or at least, that’s what I tell myself. Anonymous_HLS_2007: And maybe doing a public service. One of the oldest jokes in the book is that there are just too many lawyers in the world. Where do you stand on that issue?
O: I don’t think there are too many lawyers in the world. I just think there are too many firms. I think lawyers should be channeled to do other better things. Law firms have taken over everything. They attract all the best pro bono cases. They attract all the best talent. Why are these firms getting all of the great people? It’s the money, not the life. Anonymous_HLS_2007: Do you think everyone should have a blog?
O: Anyone who feels like they have something to say, why not? Still, right now there are thousands of lawyer blogs in this country alone, and how many of them have that much to say?
Anonymous_HLS_2007: I don’t know.. How many?
O: Actually, I shouldn’t say anything because I have no idea. I honestly haven’t read 99% of them. Of the ones I’ve seen, most want to talk about cases they’ve handled, particular judges, or the minutiae of law school classes or a recent decision. That’s valuable, but it’s absolutely not what I’m trying to do. I fully realize that there’s a potential for professional responsibility issues in blogging as an attorney. I’m careful to avoid breaching confidentiality. There are some funny things I could say about clients – you’re dealing with these huge corporations and you meet complete wackos sometimes – but I won’t write about them. It’s not ethical, and it’s not the point of the blog. Anonymous_HLS_2007: Still, don’t you ever get tempted to just blurt the whole thing out?
O: No names. It’s supposed to be a somewhat universal experience. It doesn’t matter what firm I work for. That’s the whole point. I’ve worked at a bunch of firms and had similar overall experiences at all of them. I have no vendettas, no desire to bring any one partner down (though there are a few people I’d love to tell off in person someday, but wouldn’t we all). Is every law firm in Manhattan the same? Not necessarily – but certain aspects are, because of the way the current generation of senior partners was raised. They’re the “old guard.” They came up through the ranks being treated a certain way, and they’re passing that attitude down the totem pole. And, at the very bottom of this pole, you have associates like me. Take it or leave it — personally, I’m leaning towards the latter option. Maybe then I’ll get some sleep.