Hello and welcome to Lawyers & Liquor, where we do nothing but talk about legal stuff in a profane manner because…you know what? I don’t owe an explanation to you. Every lawyer in the world wants to just start cursing about halfway through discussing anything legal with laymen and brand-spanking-new baby attorneys, and that’s what I do because, frankly, I ain’t got much to lose anymore by doing it.
So today let’s start talking about the things I don’t really give two watery shits about, and by that I mean the whole thing going on that’s been over-reported and covered with intense scrutiny in the legal community. No, not the death of Judge Leighton, former federal judge and civil rights pioneer, and quite possibly the most interesting man in the world, back in the beginning of June, but rather the BigLaw pay raises that I, like many other small-time meat and potatoes attorneys aren’t affected by and don’t fucking care about.
I’m the Boozy Barrister, and it’s time to buckle the fuck up.
But hey, although Judge Leighton was, literally, a once-in-a-lifetime figure who attended Harvard Law without a high school diploma, survived a mutiny at sea, served our country, was integral in the desegregation of Illinois neighborhoods, and was once represented by Thurgood Marshall himself, he had bad luck on picking the day to die at the age of 104, didn’t he? See, Leighton died on June 6, 2018 at his home in Massachusetts. Unfortunately, before the legal lion, who had been the first African American to serve on the Illinois Appellate Court, passed on, the legal world got in a shitfit about something that matters more to many lawyers than the passing of an era. So Judge Leighton’s passing was wrapped up and drowned under news about…how white shoe , “Look at how fucking fancy we are” BigLaw Bastards over at the Milbank firm were getting their first-year associate salaries raised to $190,000.00.
First year associates, by the way, are the legal equivalent of toddlers. They’re pretty good at walking and can manage, depending on their intelligence and how quick they are on the pickup, to not shit themselves most of the time (asking them not to crap themselves all the time is probably a little too much). Simply because they’re first year associates from Harvard or Yale doesn’t magically make them competent attorneys directly out of law school, because the general rule still rings true no matter what law school you went to: the first year of law practice, you are entirely worthless as both a person and a professional. The first year of law practice is nothing but bitch work and billing, and god fucking help you if you think it’s anything more.
But these are the firms that pride themselves on hiring from the top of the class at the top law schools in the nation, not necessarily because they’re better lawyers but because they have a better pedigree. It’s the difference between getting a good and loyal dog that is a mix of whatever snuck over the neighbor’s fence and getting a purebred show dog. You buy one for practical reasons, you get the other to impress people, and that’s what the BigLaw firms do: they trot out the associates, lift their tails, and show their assholes to prospective clients so they can advertise that they hire only from the best law schools. Congratulations, first year BigLaw associate, you’re a $190,000.00 show dog with a neatly trimmed asshole to show off for client service, and they’re going to work you like a goddamn sled dog the second the client leaves.
Does it seem like I have some vitriol for the BigLaw associates? I mean…yeah. The motherfuckers make more than I do and most of them wouldn’t be able to place their thumb firmly up their ass if I painted them a roadmap and provided an instructor to assist in doing so. But really, good on them for making six figures directly out of law school. They worked hard in a competitive field at a competitive school and became one of the chosen few who could obsess over the color of their business cards before chopping up women with chainsaws and shit. In twenty years they’ll be buying their second house while I’m still sitting at this desk covered in case files and coffee stains screaming profanely into the void of the internet. I can’t really be too much of an asshole about people doing well.
I fucking can be an asshole, though, about how we lose our goddamn minds as a legal community every fucking time some BigLaw bastards decide to change their payscale and dominate the legal news network for months on end about it.
I mean, look shitheads, just while I’ve been writing this article I’ve watched the folks at Above the Law post several fucking articles in the last week alone about the goddamn BigLaw pay raises and compensation packages. We fucking get it. The big boys are giving their kiddos a raise in allowance. Please fucking stop before you turn them into the kids on the block who won’t stop talking about how their Dad gave them a new Nintendo for mowing the fucking lawn, okay?
Cause the simple fact is, every fucking time these numbers get advertised you start hearing the shit about how lawyers are being overpaid, and how we’re not really pulling our weight. Or that old trope about how much money lawyers make, like my clients think I’m just sitting on a pile of gold coins when I get home at night and sit at a particle board desk in an old office because I really enjoy living frugally. And for a lot of the down to earth, day-to-day lawyers in the world, what happens in BigLaw will absolutely never have a fucking effect on us or our pay scale, because those aren’t the rates and salary that we’ll ever imagine getting in our fucking lifetime. But when it’s blasted out there, repeatedly, day after fucking day to the exclusion of every other piece of goddamn legal news in existence, it’s hard for people to realize that shit.
And more than that, it’s just so goddamn misleading to the people that are thinking about becoming lawyers. They hear the stories about the stress and the work, but then they hear about the fucking payscale that Cravath is just handing out to kids barely capable of putting their pants on before court and think “Gee golly whiz, I mean, it may be rough but look at that pay scale!” What they don’t understand is nobody from Shitstain U School of Law is going to get anywhere near what those first year associates at the big firms are yanking down, at least not until they’ve gone through a year of trying to get a summer associate position after the first year of law school and $50,000 in debt and realize the only place that wants their ass is an unpaid internship for the state that may lead to a $48,000 per year government position only if that department hasn’t had some serious fucking cuts by the time they leave law school.
Please, allow me to set you motherfuckers, baby lawyers, prospective lawyers, and goddamn clueless Muggles alike, straight:
These guys represent, at best, about 10% of the attorneys out there. The remainder of us don’t get out of law school, get a fucking signing bonus and a six figure salary, and then have the legal news websites talk about how much money we make every goddamn day for a month. The coverage of these raises is far out of proportion with the percentage of the legal profession that are even remotely affected by them. It would be like if CNN did absolutely nothing but talked about how great the removal of the federal estate tax was for a month straight: Great for the motherfuckers with $5,000,000 that would be affected, but it doesn’t goddamn matter for the vast majority of the country and why the fuck do we have to hear about it daily for an entire fucking month?
And don’t give me this “Oh, but other firms will follow suit!” bullshit. Yes, they will. That’s how it fucking works when they’re all trying to recruit from the same small group of people: they match salaries and offer additional perks to entice people to come on over and sign their souls away to that firm rather than the competitor. Remind me to do absolutely fucking nothing but talk for a goddamn month about how the gas station across the street dropped its prices to compete with another gas station to entice customers in. It makes about as much goddamn sense as staring down the compensation scales for a fucking month with more than a dozen fucking articles about the topic in less than a week.
BigLaw got a pay raise, it doesn’t affect most of us, good for them, now let’s talk about some shit that actually matters for more than the shitheads with silver spoons lodged firmly in their rectums and crippling anxiety about their advancement prospects, okay?
I’ll see you tomorrow,