Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Tale of Two Lawyers

As a child of the 70s and 80s, most of my butterfly collar clad friends wanted to be policemen, firemen or basically any profession represented by the Village People. I was the weird little kid that didn't want to be an astronaut.  I wanted to be a lawyer.  It wasn't necessarily my fault.  My fate was sealed for me.  From a young age, it was ingrained in my head that I was going to be a lawyer.  As a six year old, I had no idea what a lawyer was, but apparently it was the greatest job that anyone could ever possibly possess.  It meant riches beyond your wildest dreams and great respect. A childhood friend of mine had a similar indoctrination from his parents.  He even carried his older brother's Clash of the Titans lunch box in honor of L.A. Law's Harry Hamlin.

As the years passed, John and I stayed the course. We became Political Science majors.  We took the LSAT.  We both decided to apply to Yale Law School.  John was accepted.   My application to the school was returned to me after apparently being run several times through a paper shredder.  Yale Admissions had even taken the additional step of attaching a protective order barring me from any further contact with the institution.  (Note to Yale: A simple no would have sufficed).  I would eventually hit the books at Pace Law School.

Fast forwarding to 2010,  John and I were both practicing attorneys.  I married a nice girl and went into private practice.  John married his college sweetheart and went on to a well paid corporate legal position in Manhattan.  His starting salary was $150,000.  He had use of a private car service and got a high rise office.  The firm even gave him a nice laptop and blackberry.  He had made it.  I envied the jerk.  

Why did the heavens smile upon John?  I wanted to be one of those lawyers with a corner office. I wanted to slick back my hair and spend the day wearing red suspenders and one of those Gordon Gekko blue shirts with the white collar.  I imagined myself wearing a top hat and carrying a walking stick on Wall Street.  I wanted one of those metal ball thingama-whatzits on my desk that clacked back and forth.   How did I end up going into private practice in Connecticut?  I was offered a corporate job in New York.  Did I make a horrible mistake in turning it down?
On a recent trip to Manhattan, I ran into my old friend.  My wife and I decided to head to NYC for some rest and relaxation.  We had just caught a show and were on our way back to our hotel.  I was surprised to find John looking haggard.  It was Saturday night and he was just getting out of the office close to midnight.  He had a coffee stain on his Gordon Gecco shirt. He had bags under his eyes.  He had a Blackberry shaped indentation on his forehead from falling asleep on his cell phone.   
"Sadly, sadly, the sun rose; it rose upon no sadder sight than the man of good abilities and good emotions, incapable of their directed exercise, incapable of his own help and his own happiness, sensible of the blight on him, and resigning him-self to let it eat him away". Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
"It's been a long time.  How's the wife?" I asked.  "We're divorced" he replied.  "This is the new lady in my life"  he laughed as he pointed to his worn Blackberry. Apparently Mrs. John was fed up with the late hours he was pulling at work.  He was never home.  John was now renting an overpriced studio apartment with a roommate.  His monthly rent was more than my mortgage payment.   He had high blood pressure and was constantly worried about the next round of layoffs at his firm.  John looked miserable.  "At least you're in the Big Apple", I offered.  "Are you kidding me," he laughed.  "Do you think I have time to catch a Broadway show.  I've never even seen the Statue of Liberty."

John was gracious enough to give us a tour of his office.  One of hundreds of lawyers employed by the prestigious law firm of "Dewey Suem and Howe",  my old friend was assigned to a practice group that dealt soley with international shipping regulations.  He spent the better portion of his days doing legal research on that particular subject. His life had been regulated to hundreds of billable hours.  After practicing for five years, he had only stepped into a courtroom once.  It was for his own divorce.  He was not allowed to speak directly with clients.  It appeared he was just a well paid paralegal.  He was miserable.   At least he had one of those hanging metal ball things on his desk and a great view of an adjacent building.

John got me thinking about my own law practice.  Sure it wasn't always sexy, but at least it was interesting.  As a private practitioner, I pretty much made my own hours.  I chose my own clients.  I had the ability to try out any area of law that interested me. I had been to court countless numbers of times.  I had direct contact with my clients.  I could make time for my family. I had a decent quality of life. Maybe I was better off than John.  Sure it had its ups and downs, but I was happy with my chosen path.  I honestly enjoyed my job. I liked when a client expressed his or her thanks for helping them during a trying time. My student loan debt was significantly less.  Maybe I didn't need the bright lights of Manhattan.   
"It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known". Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
John decided to call it a night.  He had to be in the office the next morning.  As he got into a taxi, I turned to my wife.  "Man, he's lucky! Did you see the metal ball thingamawhatzit on his desk. Why couldn't I have that?  Some guys have all the luck."


Robert (Boosh) Idzi said...

Wow, what a story. A great premise for a dark comedy on the big screen. I'm glad you made the choices you did, now I have a great lawyer close to home ready to help me out with whatever mess I get myself into next..
Happy New Year cuz! Love the site by the way!
P.S. thanks for the job opportunity if you had anything to do with that???

Best Law Firm said...

That was a nice story, many people thinks the same way as you thought about John but the reality is something else. One should be comfortable to what they are doing and should be enjoying it other than that nothing makes sense.