Inaugural Post

For the past 5 years and 10 months, I lived life in 6 minutes increments.   

That is how we Wall Street corporate lawyers “do,” billing clients one-tenth of an hour at a time.  No, I did not work every waking moment, but my mind was always tethered to the Blackberry, evenings, weekends, always. Even during vacations, I was programmed to check hourly whether my Blackberry had the blinking red light indicating a new email. 

The blinking red light often elicited an emotional rollercoaster because there was always a chance that it represented an email staffing me to a new deal, or some other work email, that could mean no evenings or weekends — and even a few all-nighters — for the foreseeable future. But if it turned out to be just junk email, I’d feel embarrassingly happy. 

Well, tethered no more.  I resigned, quit, retired…   

No longer chained to the Blackberry, but also no longer connected to the umbilical cord that feeds me bi-weekly paychecks.  It is uncomfortable and scary to step into an unstructured and unplanned path, but I am excited to explore all the possibilities that might maximize my happiness.

Today is my first day as an “unemployed” person and I am starting this blog.  I expect to encounter a variety of emotions over the next couple of months.  I am sure I will feel liberated (like this morning, I didn’t have to figure out what clothes to wear), but will also have doubts and boredom and anxiety.   

I want to use this blog as a scratchpad to jot down my musings of my past life as a corporate lawyer, my reflections of my career-changing or career-ending decision and, most importantly, my journey to figure out whether the things I fantasized about in the wee hours while stuck at the office are mirages or potential realities.

If you have any reaction to anything I posted, please comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts. In the meantime, stay tuned (and subscribe to my RSS feed)!

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22 Responses to Inaugural Post

  1. PokerLawyer says:

    What a wonderful blog and I so love the title! I left BigLaw in March 2008 and haven’t looked back since. I wish you all the best in your endeavors!

  2. Mused says:

    My husband and I are lawyers. He in-house and tethered and I, a solo practitioner, with a Motorola Droid imbedded in my right ear. .6 is what I strive to leave behind. Kudos to you for doing so.

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  4. everysixminutes says:

    Thank you, PokerLawyer and Mused!

  5. John says:

    Hmmm…you guys are leaving BigLaw after complaining about how terrible it is…

    …but I am a recent law graduate from a poor school with poor grades, and the only thing in the running for me are $8/hour law jobs under abusive, difficult superiors.

    I would KILL for an opportunity in BigLaw to make that much money.

    Law is an absolutely miserable profession, but this is clear from the beginning, don’t you agree? Thus, BigLaw is most desirable, as it offers the most palatable situation: it pays the most money to do this job…and there is an inherent trade-off in the form of hours.

    ….so, I guess I have to ask: what were you thinking when you started BigLaw practice? It strikes me as going swimming in a pool and then complaining about how your hair and skin are wet and you smell like chlorine, so you must get out of the pool now…

    • everysixminutes says:

      I would disagree the assumption that law is an absolutely miserable profession. There were many moments during my six years of practice where I really enjoyed the job — working on exciting transactions, learning from great lawyers and clients, and the satisfaction of closing a deal knowing that I made significant contributions… Of course, there were also bad times when the intensity of the practice was too consuming.

      If you have time, I suggest that you read the entire “Breaking Up” series (http://www.everysixminutes.com/category/breaking-up/) for a more comprehensive perspective as to why I quit law. My primary motivation is not because BigLaw is so terrible, but rather I believe there are other things out there that might be better suited for me and bring me more happiness. This blog is a chronicle of that search.

      I had many aspirations when I started BigLaw. I come to realize that some of these aspirations were misguided for me, such as money and prestige. These things by themselves did not bring me happiness. That being said, I still believe that many aspirations, such as being a respected and trusted adviser, an expert in the field of practice, etc., are worthwhile and achievable for people in BigLaw.

      I am sorry to hear about your current situation and I wish you the best.

  6. Catskills Grrl says:

    I’m staff at the firm where you left – you go girl! Get that RV and a dog, too – the National Parks await!

    • everysixminutes says:

      Thanks! When I was at Yellowstone a year ago, I was tempted to buy the National Parks passport. It would be fun to put a stamp for every National Park visited. But at the end, I decided against it as I didn’t want to fuel my goal-oriented obsessiveness!

  7. Paul says:

    Former STB class of ’05 here – just meandered onto your blog from Careerist while reading about Crazy Chinese mum lady, who made headlines on both sides of the Atlantic. (Who’s her publicist?)

    Looks like some smart ideas, humour and personality here – I bet you’ll build a following. For really making something more of it, take a leaf from Gretchen Rubin’s (most recent) book.

    I think from comments on careerist blog we were at STB at the same time. I’ve also since bid adieu to the blinking red light. It seems distant and hilarious already.

    Good luck!

    • everysixminutes says:

      Good luck to you too! Gretchen Rubin is a great self-promoter; I’d never be able to blog every day like she does.

      I was at STB’s London office from Oct 2007 to June 2009 and then its NY office until the end of July 2010. BigLaw life does seem distant, but not hilarious yet.

  8. Leslie says:

    I am reading your blog instead of reading for Remedies. I find it absolutely fascinating, especially because I have a younger sister who is currently a brand-new second year associate in corporate M&A with a BigLaw firm.

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  10. Arthur says:

    Feeling both pity and schadenfreude for the fools who got themselves into Big Law in the first place. I knew people like you idiot-savants in law school: super overachievers with a lack of perspective and emotional intelligence. Usually suckers for the increasingly dominant paradigm of neoliberal / Randian b.s. that’s leading America into banana republic-hood. (Ivy grads are flocking to Wall Street to churn mythical deals, too.)

    Oh, and your generation’s belief that self-promotion a la Lindsay Lohan leads to happiness, hence the blogging. *shakes head*

    I always knew I would spend my career as a poverty lawyer (both meanings!) and work for social justice, and so I did.

    I’ll tell you a mystery: helping alleviate the suffering of just one other human is worth all the freakin’ corporate deals ever done, and I’ve helped far more than one human in my 20 year career. Plus, no billable hours! Hard work that had meaning.

    New lawyers: don’t let the extended adolescence of elite college / law school deceive you into thinking you’re “smart” enough to make informed career decisions. You’re as emotionally warped as an elite athlete drafted into the NBA, just with a different skill set, thinking that as you’re able to do battle in/on the “courts” you’re a real person. You’re not. Seek a spiritual mentor, fast!
    adp

    • everysixminutes says:

      I like your advice about doing something that is meaningful to you as well as seeking a spiritual mentor. I am glad you feel so passionately about your chosen career. However, we have to be careful not to judge too quickly why people do what they do. I find your generalization over reaching and there is certainly no need for name calling.

  11. Jackmax says:

    You kind of highlight the downside of Chinese parenting. Your parents pushed you to the extreme your whole life, you were successful in that you became a coroporate lawyer, and now you have left that b/c you never should have gone into that in the first place. So many Asian kids are turned into robots this way. Although it’s great that you finally found your calling, you took somebody’s spot at your law school who wanted it.

    • everysixminutes says:

      I think you may have misinterpreted my NYT piece.

      Because of my experience as an immigrant, I thought success was to have a lucrative and conventional white-collar job. At the time, I wanted to go to law school (out of my own volition without any pressure from my parents) and did just that. After practicing law for six years, I now realize that being a corporate lawyer is not what I want to do for the rest of my life. Hindsight is 20/20. Some may think that I wasted my education, but I don’t. I learned a great deal from law school and gained valuable skills during my time as a corporate lawyer.

  12. JP says:

    What does classic overachievement have to do with Chinese parenting or being a recent immigrant?

    My father’s family immigrated from England circa 1736 (give or take a decade) and I got the same thing rammed into my head by him. Graduate first in your class. Get a full scholarship. Success is a lucrative and conventional white collar job.

    In fact, this is the same thing my wife’s siblings got and they are of not particularly recent French/German ancestry. Graduate first in your class (both her brother and her sister). Go to med school (her brother). Go to dental school (her sister).

    It’s standard-issue American overachieving intelligent middle/upper-middle class.

    What’s the target? A protected six-figure salary (preferably at least $200,000) in a solid profession.

    No Chinese ancestry or recent immigrant experience required.

    • everysixminutes says:

      I think there are similarities between the American brand of meritocracy and the emphasis on conventional success by immigrant parents.

      Generally speaking (generalizations are unavoidable when talking about such things), all parents want their children to have financial security and happiness. I think immigrants parents tend to equate happiness with financial security because they are more likely to be in a situation in which financial security is lacking. Because immigrant parents often make sacrifices for their children, they tend to want their children to have what they couldn’t, especially in the form of education and career prestige.

  13. AG says:

    Hi there, your blog has great insight, stuff that most BigLaw slaves are perhaps too scared to admit I think. As for me, I was sucked into the BL world and already want out (after just a few months)! Is it alright to quit after just a year (year and a half MAX) because that’s my plan, and the only thing helping me get through the mind-numbing, pointless (bill-padding) work? I’m wondering for the sake of my resume and, less so, my relationship with the firm. My plan is to pursue a public/nonprofit sector job related to law and enroll in my law school’s loan repayment program. I have two other (debt-free) degrees related to public sector work so I think finding another job is doable, even if it involves a 50%+ pay cut. Thanks for your insight.

    • everysixminutes says:

      It is great that you already know what you want to do next. You are lucky to not be ladened with student loans. I personally think that as long as you can explain convincingly why you only worked in BigLaw for a year and how the skills learned from your BigLaw experience can help your next job, quitting after a year or a year and half shouldn’t negatively affect your resume.

  14. JC says:

    Americanized to a fault.

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