Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Lawyers and money

Despite the late night, yesterday was a pretty good day to be a lawyer. But then I think about the judge that's suing the dry cleaner for $67 million for losing his pants, and I remember why most lawyers suck.

Money.

There was an interesting article in last week's Miami Herald about how prosecutors and public defenders in Florida aren't being paid enough money to pay their bills -- the current starting salary is $40,000 a year. By way of reference, first year associates at big law firms in New York and other large cities are being paid as much as $165,000, not including bonuses.

In my last semester of law school -- a little more than 8 years ago -- I did an internship at a public defender's office, and loved it. Not to be cliché or anything, but it was a life-altering experience. After graduation I was offered a job to be a public defender in a different city for $28,000. I really wanted to take that job. Alas, I wanted to pay my rent just a little bit more. Ultimately, that was why I went back to get my masters' degree.

When I left the government to go in to private practice, my family -- especially my mother -- seemed really impressed by the salary, and the nice office, and all of the other perks associated with the job. But when I left my big law firm job, my mom said she was proud of me -- because she thought that deciding to do what I wanted to do -- and that all that money wasn't worth not doing it -- couldn't have been easy. I thought it was strange for her to say, but I think I understood what she meant.

At least once a week, someone at work will ask me whether I miss working for a firm. And every once in a while, I make the joke that I only miss it on payday.



10 comments:

Ryane said...

Good post. I saw that newsreport about that crazy guy, suing the drycleaners for $67 mil. What on EARTH??? no pants can be worth that and honestly, I was just a little bit more disgusted w/humanity (and lawyers) after I saw that report. Seriously, though--what are the odds that he will win? Frankly, I hope he loses!

Evil Spock said...

I won't pretend that I don't love money, but I'd rather do something that I was proud of, rather than collect a big paycheck.

DSL said...

Money seems to bring with it an overgrown sense of entitlement.

dara said...

Ryane: He might be a crazy guy, but he's also an administrative law judge here in D.C. I hope he gets reprimanded by the bar for filing such a frivolous lawsuit.

Evil Spock: Money is great, but as the saying goes, it doesn't buy happiness. Unfortunately for the folks coming out of grad schools (including law schools), happiness doesn't pay back your student loans. And once you make that decision, it's like being caught in a vortex.

DSL: Exactly. See Paris Hilton.

mad said...

I still say you should chuck it all and become an artist.

dara said...

Maybe after my student loans are paid off.

tingb said...

I made that joke earlier today. "Do you ever miss it?" "Only on days when associates get raises."

dara said...

But, sheesh, nowadays, what days aren't associates getting raises? (And, for the record, that's one of the main reasons why I keep reading Above the Law.)

tingb said...

True! But I only wince at the first announcement; it's a safe assumption that everyone else will eventually follow. Same with bonuses (also wince-worthy).

Ally said...

One nice thing about knowing you could have a job at a big law firm is knowing that you have the ability to make a lot of money if you ever really really needed it. Fortunately I doubt I'll ever need $130k+ a year.