Law: Seventh Grade Lunch

September 16, 2008

When I was in Middle School, every part of our life was micro managed.  From the minute I walked in the door until the minute I left, there was always someplace I was supposed to be and something I was supposed to be doing.  The most frustrating and important of these assignments was the lunch table. During the first day of school, after everybody sat down, a seating chart was passed around and the place you were sitting became the place you were required to sit for the rest of the year.
This was all well and good, except that over the course of the year, people you once liked really start to grate on you.  Worse yet, the whole “seating process” happens in four minutes, meaning that the first four minutes of lunch largely determine how much you will enjoy the rest of the year.

Why does this matter?  Well, when you walk into lunch that first day, all you really care about is getting a place to sit.  The better the people the happier you are.  Nothing is worse than being left at a table with the oddballs.  You know, the guy with the back brace, the girl that doesn’t shower, and the guy that picks his nose knuckle deep.  Thankfully, I was consistently able to dodge this fate however I will never forget the mad scramble:  Priority one, get a seat, priority two don’t sit with the weirdos, priority three, best seat possible to make the year go as well as you can, and hanging over your head during all of this is the likelihood that you won’t like whoever you find within a few months.

Those of you that have been reading this blog for a while know where this is going:  every day it becomes clearer and clearer to me that OCI is the first day of middle school lunch.  Here we all are, scurrying around campus in four weeks trying to find the best seat firm possible.  Just like cafeteria lunch, the first priority is getting a job.  Nothing is worse than being left standing (unemployed) when time (OCI) runs out.  After you know you will have a seat the priority is not being left with the weirdos.  In firm employment, the weirdos are the “semi-big law” firms.  I don’t mean boutiques or good midlaw firms, I mean the type of firms that are clearly second teir in a city:  you work the same hours for less pay, less prestige and worse exit opportunities.  Think Heller in CA, Locke Lord in IL, and anybody not in the Amlaw 50 in NY and DC.

After you avoid the outcasts, its just a matter of how high up the social ladder (Vault/AmLaw rankings) you can get.   If you have some good friends with the same lunch, you might gladly sit with them and say you didn’t want to be at the cool kids table (working for a lifestyle firm or s strong boutique that is still a notch below the big boys) but in the end, you will be judged based on where you work sit.

And of course, just like Middle School, no matter how fast you scramble or how well you consider your seat, after a few Middle School months (Law Firm Years) you will want nothing more than to leave your table and sit somewhere else, anywhere else (lateral).

At least the firms let us comparative shop during 1L and 2L year.

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