You know who I feel bad for? (Yes, I feel sometimes.) I feel bad for Frank Sacks, a 40-something associate. Who just got canned!
You don’t just decide on a whim to become a lawyer later in life when you have a wife and kids. No, late-blooming lawyers tend to be people with well-thought-out plans that are properly vetted and analyzed, complete with lists and spreadsheets. Frank Sacks is one of those people. He probably said, “I want my kids to go to a decent school, so I can’t continue being a teacher.” Or maybe his wife threw down the gauntlet and was like, “I’ve still got enough gas in this tank to find a real man.”
Since I have never spoken to Frank, I felt it would be awkward to say something like, “Tough break!” or, “You’ll get ‘em next time!” So I decided to offer my consolatory urges to someone who would appreciate them—my buddy Steve, a midlevel who also got the axe. Steve was going to be the recipient of my many awesome platitudes. I planned to give him the full Matthew Richardson treatment, complete with a pep talk and a night of strippers and blow, all compliments of yours truly.
The trouble was, Steve wasn’t upset.
And that ruined everything.
When I popped into Steve’s office to offer my fake condolences—maybe a little trash talk, an uncharacteristic “sorry,” and an invitation to drown his troubles in a tub of Scotch, spoon-fed by Russian twins—I was rebuked.
“Matt, save the smart-ass remarks, you BigLaw slave. I’m the one feeling bad for you.”
“Yeah, right,” I said. “Really…”
“No,” he said, waving me off. “I’m 28, no wife, no kids (that I know of), and I just walked away with a cool four-month severance. They basically said, ‘You suck ass. Sayonara.’ But instead of tossing me out like a piece of trash, they gave me more money than most people make in a year. Why? Because they don’t want me to badmouth the firm.”
“Matt, four months severance is like sixty grand,” Steve said with a smile. “I don’t even have six grand in my savings.”
Fuck, me neither. Okay, I got to turn this around.
“Yeah, but Steve-O, that money’s going run out, and then what?—”
“Wait, Matt, did you just say something? I was busy mentally planning Spring Break Acapulco ‘09.”
“You’re not seriously going on Spring Break, you’re too old.”
“You think I’m going tell them I’m a 28-year-old lawyer? What kind of jackass would do that? I’m a 23-year-old super senior from Idaho State. I’m going with my buddies who got laid off at [REDACTED]. Those assholes got six months severance so they’re paying for the villa. College girls. Not women with chair-ass. College girls who can wear a thong… outside.”
I must walk out of this office with my supercilious feelings intact.
“Yeah, but when you get back, you’ll be unemployed and no girls are gonna hook up with you.”
He was no longer hearing my criticisms.
“SPRING BREAK, MOTHERF&@$#R!”
I walked out. Defeated in battle, but determined to win the war.
Days later, I heard that Steve was still coming into the office, which, by the way, is super-awkward. I think I heard a secretary mutter “Dead Man Walking” as Steve jovially bounced down the halls. I popped into his former office, annoyed that his nameplate hadn’t been removed.
“Dude, you got canned, you don’t need to show up,” I said.
“They’re letting me use the office for as long as I want. It’s kinda pimp to have an office just to run errands and whatnot, don’t you think?”
Shit. I agree with him. Don’t lose focus.
“Steve, how the hell is any girl gonna go out with you?”
“Matt, this city is filled with people not working. Taking girls out is for office stooges like you. I go out every night…and day. And you know what? There are so many hot girls out during the week. I had sex with an unemployed actress last night. What did you do?”
I drafted an intercreditor. Ignore the question and keep hammering my point.
“What are you gonna do when the money runs out?”
There, nailed him. There is no way around the fact that in a few months, I will be feeling warm and fuzzy about this cushy job, and Steve and his brethren will be waiting in line at a soup kitchen.
“You’re more stressed about this than I am. I have an Ivy League degree. When they start hiring people again—six months, a year, whatever—someone will take me back, and I’ll be grinding away again just like you. The difference is, I’ll have basically been given a second senior year on the firm’s dime. I’m making memories, biatch.”
“I can make some calls, maybe get you into a lesser firm,” I offered. “Or maybe you should get a job abroad at a firm?
“Matt, if I’m going abroad, I’m going to be a bartender, not do this shit in some Middle Eastern country where you get beheaded for banging a hooker.”
I’ve been hearing a lot of nonsense about lawyers planning to go abroad. But where exactly on the face of this bankrupt Earth are they hiring lawyers? The Middle East and Asia. That’s where. Is anyone really going to go over there to do legal work for a few years?
Working at a Saudi firm sounds like a prison sentence. Tokyo or Hong Kong doesn’t seem as bad. Cool electronics and gadgets, if you’re in to those sorts of things. And you’d get to be the tall guy. Still, if you’re a midlevel associate such as myself, there are other opportunity costs—namely giving up prime years of your life to make a buck in some faraway land. Don’t you actually want to make some lasting friendships and maybe even meet a woman to marry? Would you rather end up happy or just have a bunch of happy endings?
I couldn’t shake the feeling that maybe I would be better off getting axed. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful to have a job. I guess. But there’s a BIG part of me that would rather be at a Jamaican bar right now, sipping rum with my other laid-off friends.
I studied my paycheck every week, figuring it would make me feel superior to Steve. After all, he had to be hurting without the comfort of a trusty Friday direct deposit. But then, a proof of life. An email from Steve. There was no text, just an attached jpeg of him actually holding a college girl’s bare jugs. The subject line: “Steve 1, Matt 0.”
Overwhelmed, I typed “naked college chicks” into Google, but all I got was that damn “Restricted Site” notice, which meant HR probably flagged me yet again. (I’m easily the league leader in Restricted Site warnings.) I needed a way to cheer myself up. I thought about leaving the office, but the afternoon shift at Flashdancers is kind of depressing. Though the buffet isn’t bad.
I then did the only thing that came naturally to me under the circumstances. I marched right into Frank Sacks’ office. The firm had given him a month or so to handover his cases, and today was his last day. If Steve wasn’t going to be the beneficiary of my platitude-filed pep talk, Frank Sacks was. It was the only reasonable way to make myself feel better about my soul-crushing job—and Steve’s beer-crushing severance package.
“Hey, Frank, I know we’ve never spoken, but I just wanted to say, when life gives you lemons, you turn right around and make lemonade.”
“Thanks?” Frank said, confused.
“You’re welcome, big guy. And we’re going out tonight. Just two men out on the town. Strip club. Booze. Maybe a couple hookers. My treat. Unless, the wife has a tight leash on you. What do you say?”
“I’m gay,” Frank said. “Still want to take me out to a strip club?”
“Not so much.”
All I have to say is there better be someone around here to make jealous when my severance package rolls in.