“I’ll never be a rich man, but what happy man ever was?”
— J, November 1, 2001
You know, I don’t worry that much about money. The truth is, I make a comfortable living; I have everything I need, and plenty of things I want (more than necessary, if you believe my mother), and enough to give a little to causes I care about. Don’t get me wrong – I have plenty of bills, and I’ll probably be in debt til I die for law school, but it all seems to work itself out somehow.
I didn’t become a lawyer for the money, and working in the public sector, I don’t make the kind of money that makes people think lawyers make a lot of money. I knew when I went to law school that “Big Law” wasn’t for me – I’m not interested in 80-hour work weeks, billable hour requirements, corporate law, and wearing a suit every day. I went to school near New York City, though, so many of my classmates went the BigLaw route, and when I first heard that they were making $160,000 right out of the gate (my friends aren’t bragging; big-firm salaries are public knowledge), I had a momentary pang of “Maybe I was a little hasty.” But I like my job, and I like my life here, and I am grateful that I haven’t yet had to work a weekend or a late night (though it’s probably inevitable that I will before I leave this job).
During the past several weeks, however, Above the Law has been reporting on year-end bonuses in BigLaw, and the numbers are just staggering: $35,000 for first-year associates (pro-rated, since they didn’t start until after the bar, but still); second-years are getting that much, plus “special bonuses” of $10,000 or more. It’s mind-boggling, and part of me can’t help but think how much easier things would be with that money.
The larger part of me, though, knows I would never really want to do the work required to earn those bonuses. And they do earn them. It’s not like they’re sitting in their offices, updating their fantasy football teams or shopping at Pottery Barn online (and if it is like that, don’t email me; I don’t want to know). The people I know in BigLaw are super-smart, they like their jobs (for the most part), and they work their asses off, and they’re worth every penny those firms will pay them.
But I’m just sayin’: Christmas is coming. I accept gift cards.