The Legend of Mr. 162

Mr. 162 Columns, Lawyer 18 Comments

I’ve wanted to be a lawyer for years. Can’t remember when it started, but if you would have given me an aptitude test in grade school, “lawyer” would have come up top 5. I’ve always argued dispassionately and felt more confident arguing a position than talking about what I believe.  But perhaps some of my aptitude and disposition towards the profession is not a cause but an effect.

I always thought that if any girl was going to like me, I would have to buy her affection. I understand the utter foolishness of this statement, but I clearly remember thinking it for years. I didn’t have lousy parents or anything, but I also didn’t have anyone ever sit me down and tell me how the world works. Alcohol was involved.

The main reason I went to law school was the promise of $125,000 per year. From when I was about 16 and through my “off year” between undergrad and law school, that’s what a BIG associate made. And where I come from, nobody makes that kind of cake at a young age. To me, that salary guaranteed adoring hot chicks. I had no self-esteem for a long time.

So my plan was to reverse-engineer my way into one of these mythical positions. For a number of years, Skadden was my target. I interviewed for a file clerk position during my “off year” and got to see their office in LA. Still today, I have to admit that, next to Jones Day, those may be the sickest offices downtown. (But, until you’ve been to some Hollywood production companies’ offices, you have not seen the Promised Land, my friends. Live and learn.)

The requirements to be a BIG associate can be listed and proven on a sheet of paper—and it’s inherently racist, elitist, sexist, and generally biased. But, I was hell bent and wanted the cash. I wasn’t thinking straight. Because no 16-22 year old male thinks logically. Between obsessing over girls shallower than a blow-up pool and pleasuring yourself, there’s not a lot of introspection and deep thought going on.

I am a product of public schools. I was state academic decathlon champion in 2000. My high school GPA was 3.2, mainly because my favorite number is 32 and the cost-benefit analysis between smoking cigarettes in the parking lot and doing my AP Chemistry reading usually resulted in an extra cig. I took the SAT test twice. The first time I was hungover, and I got a 1390. The second time I wasn’t, plus one of the essay questions was the same as the first time I took it. I got a 1490.

My friend Dean got a 1540. His IM screenname is still “Dean1540,” which makes it safe to say that he 1) still uses IM; 2) has a doctorate in music theory from Columbia and does not shave often; 3) has slept with more than one girl who turned lesbian soon thereafter.

I went to a prestigious liberal arts college. There I studied under ambassadors, met President Clinton, wrote a grant to study political trends in Germany and rubbed elbows with other trust fund babies. My undergraduate GPA was 3.2—mainly because my favorite number is 32 and the cost-benefit analysis between smoking cigarettes outside the library and doing my kinesiology homework usually resulted in an extra cig.

Senior year, I took the LSAT. I bought a $29.95 LSAT book four weeks before the exam.

Actually, my parents gave me $2,995 for the Kaplan course that I was supposed to take for six weeks, then rock the test (similar to how I handled the SATs) and then get into a top law school despite a lackluster work ethic as measured by my 3.2.

When I got the check from my mom, it was impossible not to speculate how far $3K could go in Vegas.  After a four-hour drive and three hours in the craps pit at Caesars Palace, I had exactly $800 left. After another five hours in the poker room, the entire $2,995 was gone.

Some people have to learn lessons the hard way, and to say I am stubborn is an understatement. I was headstrong and committed to accepting my eight-hour loss of a potentially prosperous legal future as a lesson on disciplined spending.  I could have easily owned up to my mistake and asked for another $3K, but like I always say, “Better to act like your s#!t don’t stink than admit weakness.”

I got my LSAT results shortly before graduation: 162.

“It’s not a terrible score,” I thought.  I surmised that I had an outside chance at USC, and my backup was Loyola. Both had good track records of placing students at BIG law firms. So long as I completely reinvented myself over the summer and became the type of student that got A’s instead of B+’s, I’d be okay.

First denial letter in: Columbia.  Expected.  Then I got denied at UCLA. I got wait listed at USC. And I got into Southwestern. I took a year off.

I worked as a budget manager for a real estate company.  I reapplied to schools.  But ultimately my bed was made, and I enrolled at Southwestern. (If you’re not from LA, you haven’t heard of it.) I graduated in the top 20% of my class—the law school equivalent of a 3.2. I smoked outside of the library.

The upper echelon of the legal world truly is a rat race. If you deviate even a little from “the plan,” the system will chew you up and spit you out. There is no margin of error. I cannot change what happened, and I cannot change my law school.

Since my 2L summer gig, I have not spent five minutes feeling sorry for myself. No, I am not one of the BIG associates. Never have been much of a worker bee. But I am where I am supposed to be.

I call it a boutique, you may call it whatever you like. We do some plaintiffs work. I work in business lit. I win more than I lose. There’s no fear of being laid off.  I get to wear jeans to work while enjoying the hottest interns UCLA and USC can provide.  (Youth is wasted on the young.)

And I’ve never played craps at Caesars again.

A boss that I otherwise hated once told me, “One of the most important things you can do as a lawyer is sit and think about a problem.” I had no idea what he meant. After a couple of years at a firm, I know exactly what he meant. Associates are smart: Really smart. If you give your brain enough time to work on a problem, you’ll come up with stuff nobody else did. But you gotta have faith in yourself and your skills. Brute mental force will not get anything done without a confidence to fuel the fire.

Sometimes I feel bad for the small group of lawyers who dotted their “i”s, crossed their “t”s and still missed the BIG boat. Too many of those sorry sops are toiling away in midsize firms for half of what they “should” be making. That is not fair. But screw them, we all end up where we belong and need to own it.

Before you work a single day as a lawyer, you’re inundated with the belief that if your law school isn’t elite enough or if you fall short of the BIGs, you’ll forever hate yourself and regret your life.  I now believe it’s the other way around. 

I strayed from the narrow BIG path early, but as D.H. Lawrence (by way of G.I. Jane) taught us:

“I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself.

A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough

Without ever having felt sorry for itself.”

I own my legacy and enjoy my life.  The rest of you are nothing but haters.

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  • Alma Federer

    “Between obsessing over girls shallower than a blow up pool and pleasuring yourself, there’s not a lot of introspection and deep thought going on. “ This is exactly why smart women stay away from know-it alls who subjugate us, thinking us as mere vassals.  I think this guy needs some kind of spitual sceance, where he can learn that women are EQUALS and should be treated as EQUALS.  We are NOT here just to please you shallow men.  I can’t believe you seriously think we women are anxious to go to bed with guys like you!  Find a higher power and ask for his opinion.  You will feel much better.  And you won’t serve SATAN by gambling away $3,000 in Las Vegas.  If you had saved your money, or spent it as your mom & dad wanted you to, you would be happier today.  Good luck to you.

  • canadouche

    other than the typo (“lose” not “loose”), good post.  kids: if you don’t like who you are without being a big associate, you are going to certainly HATE who you are as a big associate.  its not a career that can be a means to an end; must be an end in itself.

  • BL1Y

    Get this Alma, some girls actually are shallow, just as some guys are shallow.  Believing in equality means believing that some girls are just plain rotten.  But, I suspect you’ll never come to terms with this so obvious fact, because if you admitted to yourself that some girls are terrible human beings, you’d realize that you’re in that group.

  • Ex-BigLaw

    Come on BL1Y, we all know Alma does not actually believe in equality – she believes that women should be treated either as equals, or much *better* than equals would be treated, depending on what’s convenient for her at the time.

  • Frat Guy Law Type

    You see, Alma, its not that women are anxious to sleep with guys like “us.” Its that they can’t resist guys like “us,” like an arsonist can’t resist burning down a barn.

  • Bravo

    First, stop the smoking.  Continue enjoying yourself.  Mr. BL1Y don’t be so hard on Alma.  We can all take a trip to Mars with her comments.

  • Allison

    maybe no to being a lawyer.

  • Cork Soaker

    How old is this guy? When I took the SAT essays weren’t a part of it yet.  I’m 23 and one year out of undergrad.

  • Magic Circle Jerk

    wow, I got your same SAT & a 169 on the LSAT. who knew those 7 pts mattered so much?
    it sounds like you’ve made peace with your life, which is good.  however, there are 2 critical compenents needed to evaluate:  1) hrs/week 2)avg. annual compensation.

  • Anon

    Great piece, dude.

  • Alan

    I hated you in the two previous articles, but this makes sense.  Well done.  Rock on.

  • B. S.

    Hate is a big word Alan.  Happy that you like this article.  Just wait until tomorrow and you will be thrilled.  Enjoyed the article.

  • puddle

    I loved this!  Thank you!  Did about the same, ended up in a prestigious boutique by way of chance, but I’m still a third tier graduate who is constantly surrounded by the prestige whores who base their life status on their lawschool. 
    You win some, you lose some, but in the end it really all evens out.  And at least I got to chill out and smell the roses for most of my undergrad and lawschool life.

  • Willem

    Good for ya, man, I also would have taken the money, but not bet it at the tables.  $3G goes along way with the ladies, man.  You would have had the time of your life and better stories to tell.  Good lesson for ya, next time.

  • Soontobe2L

    Awesome article. Someone who echoes my thoughts and feelings. I just can’t stand spending more than a reasonable amount of hours in the library when i know I could be doing something more enjoyable/useful/character building…which is just about anything.
    I study my ass off, but I am not willing to study once my ass does, indeed, fall off. Law school can be enjoyable, and I strive to do that to the fullest extent. I may be getting B’s, and B+’s my first year, but I also had a life outside of school. I drank, I hung out with friends from college, I maintained a steady girlfriend who is pretty damn awesome. I like to think that I will be the law school success story because I did not hate my time there, nor do I hate myself. I also feel that those people who are more likely to get into BIG law are the ones who are far more likely to be miserable.
    Then again, I could be deluding myself.
    and by the way Alma…he wasn’t saying that he was shallow now, but back in his early teens and early twenties, all he cared about was screwing a 10 and masturbating to that thought. Hell, many women in their 30’s do that same thing while lying next to their honest, faithful husbands. Long story short, men can be shallow, but women can certainly be bitches.

  • Guano

    Good point, mahn.  Women are often whiny, but they have what we men need to keep warm @ nite, mahn.

  • Thanks for the honesty…

    But, this article is more about how far you can slack off in life when you are a trust fund baby.
    I wish my parents had 3K to give away at random… You wasted opportunities and therefore do not deserve pity.

  • Mr. 163

    I really wish you would post more. It’s like I found my legal soul brother.