The Straw that “Chipped” the Camel’s Back

Becoming a partner was the default choice of my BigLaw career path.  I started at Davis Polk, first two years in Hong Kong and one year in New York.  Then I lateralled to Simpson Thacher’s London office.  I was there for two years before returning to its New York office last June.   

So when I told my colleagues that I was quitting law, many of them were surprised at first and then curious to know what was the straw that broke the camel’s back.   I suppose they thought I was ambitious enough to gun for partnership and then was burnt out and fed up.

I wasn’t burnt out or fed up.  I don’t think there was a proverbial straw, but there was a definite moment when the idea of quitting law was “incepted” into my mind. (If you have seen the movie Inception, you know what I mean.)

The moment occurred on a freezing Sunday evening on December 6, 2009. 

After my husband and I came back to NY after years of being expats, we became huge Giants fans.  We did some research and got the best tickets (according to the stadium manager interviewed by Vanity Fair) for the Giants v. Cowboys game.  I used to be a Cowboys fan when I lived in Dallas before law school, so this game was extra exciting for me since I switched my allegiance.

The tickets were close to $700 a pop on StubHub, but we bit the bullet justifying that we deserved this treat because we worked hard enough.  The seats were indeed great – panoramic view of the field right on the 50 yard line at the front of the balcony without any obstructions.  With my binocular, I could clearly see the steam rising off of the players’ head.

The day before the game, a conference call that was scheduled for Saturday was cancelled and was to be rescheduled for the next day.  The call was for a deal that had already robbed me of many weekends.  There were a flurry of emails Sunday morning, but no time was finalized.  So, in short, during much of the game, I was nervously checking my Blackberry to see if and when the call would happen.

There were some locals sitting several rows behind me in seats that cost less than 1/5 of our tickets.  They looked relaxed, nicely bundled with their hands tucked in their warm mittens (unlike me with frozen fingers typing on my Blackberry).  I wished I were them sitting in the less expensive and desirable seats without the immediate worry of having to get on a potential conference call.

Then, I had the epiphany — I could be like them if I wanted to.  It was my choice to do what I do.

It was a nail biting game all the way to the end when the Giants won 31 to 24.  We were jumping up and down, then the dreaded email came for a conference call scheduled to start in the next 30 minutes.

We got to the Secaucus station just in time for the call.  I sat at the station to take the call (since there would be no reception on the train) for the next 2 hours.  My poor husband sat next to me, patiently, reading his New York Times articles on his iPhone. 

That deal died before Christmas.

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11 Responses to The Straw that “Chipped” the Camel’s Back

  1. Adrian says:

    Hi. We have a mutual friend who recommended I look up your blog. Very nice so far! Congrats! I worked at two big law firms in London and New York and I still shudder at the memory of the year I broke 3000 billed hours. I thought this post was hilarious and I have definitely been in this situation (en route to a stadium and on a cell phone, sitting in a rental car on the PCH listening to the tax lawyers debate, etc. etc.). I did it for 7 years before going inhouse, where the quality of life is 100% better. Did you consider this option? You must have had opportunities in this market.

  2. everysixminutes says:

    Hi Adrian: Thanks for the comment. 3000 sounds excruciating. I am so glad to hear that your in-house position worked out. I did consider the in-house option and had some interviews before I ultimately decided to quit law altogether. I will write an entry on that topic in the next few weeks.

  3. found your site on today and really liked it.. i bookmarked it and will be back to check it out some more later

  4. Pingback: Breaking Up is Hard to Do: Part V – Money, Money, Money | Every Six Minutes

  5. The guy who started Netscape was “retired” and one day he came across this talk in a chat room. And he went back to work and made more money than ever before in just a few years and retired again for good. I think you should think in terms of starting your own thing.

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  7. Charles Tse says:

    I stumble upon your site through the NYT, which I stumble upon from another discussion about Tiger Mom Amy Chua. At first, I was skeptical (probably more like judgmental, based on envy) who the hell you whose opinion is published along with university professor, magazine editor-at-large, or author of 7 books on child rearing. Then I read your blog and I have to say I have been impressed. You are good in telling your story in a short, clear and interesting manner (dunno if it is related to your training at a law firm), and I notice you have a good sense of self-awareness and the ability to self-reflect. I (former i-bank analyst and now hedge fund) have also been asking myself similar questions, and I LOVE this story. Thanks for sharing and keep up the good work.

    • everysixminutes says:

      I had the exact same reaction when NYT reached out to me. I felt inadequate and a bit intimidated when comparing to the previous guests. But I figured that they probably asked a lot of people to only pick a few, why not give it a try in the off chance they pick me… I actually don’t know if this is how NYT operates, but I am glad my piece was published. And I am glad you enjoyed reading it! Thanks for the feedback.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I read this post yesterday and can’t stop thinking about it – I can so relate! I remember being at the first firm I worked at and going to the cafeteria and being jealous of the cafeteria staff because they didn’t have to do my legal research assignment. Pretty ridiculous, right? But it is easy to forget that you DO have a choice. Good for you for doing something about it, and I am excited for you and your new venture.

    Also, thanks so much for putting my blog on your blog list – I really appreciate it and love meeting your blog! You sound like a cool person. If I still lived in New York I’d say we should meet for coffee. :)

    • everysixminutes says:

      Thanks! I have enjoyed reading your blog and really appreciate your candidness. I wish you the very best!

  9. Hi-
    I’m the one that left the previous comment – I am the author of . I thought it would have showed up on there, but, being the technically challenged person I am, I have not yet figured out the whole signature link thing. So maybe now my comment makes more sense!

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