Sunday, January 29, 2006

A Sunday Spent Out of the Office

I promised myself that I wouldn't set foot in the office today. Not that I'm not working, mind you, but it feels almost rebellious to be sitting in front of my own computer in the comfort of my own apartment instead of "my" computer at the firm's office. I've promised myself to limit the billables to 5 today! How else can I catch up on all the things I so carelessly neglect during the work-week?

Friday, January 27, 2006

My Officemate is an Overbiller

I recently discovered my officemate's dirty little secret...the kind that can only be uncovered when living in such close proximity for seemingly endless hours a day. She's an over-biller. I imagine that she's not alone. I'm often confounded by the hours that some of my fellow associates brag about billing. And it's not that she doesn't work - she does. It's just that I'm there as well working and breathing the same, stale air, and at the end of the day, she bills so much more than I do. I'm willing to admit that I'm probably not the most productive associate to ever walk the face of the earth - I take my time at lunch whenever possible and on those few days when no one's looking, I even sneak out of the office early - but I know she's not as "productive" as her time sheet reflects. Take yesterday for example: she got to work about 15 minutes before I did (her estimation, not my own) and proceeded to spend the first two hours talking on the phone to friends, head-hunters, and our IT department about her Blackberry "issues." Then she left for an hour to take a leisurely lunch because she "needed to clear her head." Her afternoon consisted of randomly reviewing a few documents while simultaneously viewing live, streaming video of some athletic competition from her old alma mater. This, mind you, was interrupted several times by more phone calls, visits with our colleagues down the hall and a twenty-minute trip to Starbucks. At the end of the day, she packed up her gym bag and headed out into the cold night air seemingly satisfied with herself for putting in another "10-hour day." What she didn't know was that I had been watching her. And before you mistake me for some single, white female wannabe, you need to understand that I've spent the last few months listening to her go on and on about the number of hours she bills (she's even been "recognized" as one of the top billers in our department), and it got me wondering - what was I doing wrong? After all, I didn't feel like I was slacking off and I was juggling 5 different cases, yet my billables were consistently lower. And while I often take work home with me, I noticed that she never had more than her gym clothes in her carry-home bag (and she doesn't even have a computer in her apartment), so the "I'm-working-from-home" excuse didn't seem plausible. The only logical explanation I can figure is that she routinely "pads" her hours. At this point I can think of nothing else to account for our disproportionate billing hours.

So what does this all mean? Nothing really. The real dirty little secret is that while big firms publicly eschew this type of activity, privately they are willing to look the other way. That's because it improves their bottom line and translates into bigger bonuses at the end of the year and ultimately fatter wallets for the partners. The irony is that if I were to say something to someone about my suspicions, I would likely be labeled a troublemaker or worse, it would get around and my fellow associates would ostracize me.

As for me, so far I've resisted the urge to pad my billing, but if I'm in the minority (as I'm beginning to suspect I might be), it's only going to be a matter of time before I suddenly find myself with more work on my already over-crowded plate.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

First Post

Welcome to my blog, a collection of my first-hand observations and self-indulgent rants/musings on big-firm life.

A little background about me: I am a twentysomething living in Manhattan and working in a field over-run with egotistical overachievers who wouldn't think twice about stabbing you in the back for nothing more than five minutes of glory. I grew up in a comfortable existence with a loving, supportive family who wanted nothing more for me than to enter the family business (the medical field), settle down, and produce lots of babies to carry on the family name. Much to their dismay, I packed my bags, headed east and went to law school with lofty (naive?) dreams of advocating for those without a voice. That was before the reality of my school loans set in. Cut to three years later where I’ve sold out to work as an associate at a major law firm. Now my days are reduced to 15-minute billable increments, a constant steam of never-ending assignments, and the sometimes overwhelming guilt associated with making the rich richer. This blog is primarily meant to serve as a form of self-therapy where I can safely, and anonymously air my (and my firm's) dirty laundry. But it doubles as a warning for those of you contemplating entering big-firm life and as a solace to those of you currently sharing my misery. As such, I'll primarily write about life as I live it in the big firm, but from time to time I may detour briefly to rant from atop my soapbox about this or that or even to gripe about the pathetic social life my 80-hour work weeks have left me with.

PLEASE NOTE: The names appearing in my postings will always be changed to protect the guilty.