One thing I realized recently, and this is really stupid, is that I'm not a "big firm" person. I started law school and it was kind of a joke that I was there to sell out and be "The Man". My goal was to move up to the middle class. I shouldn't have had to "realize" that I'm not a big firm person. I have a very classist world view, I do not like the wealthy, I don't like privilege and I don't like people who treat the working class like crap.
Law school isn't exactly the place for people like me. Most of the goals of the career center and the other law students are in direct opposition to mine. However there are quite a lot of people, at least at this stage, who want to help the disenfranchised, further women's rights, protect the environment, or hang up their own shingle and never have a boss again. These are the kids I respect the most and I hope that they, and myself, will be able to ignore the pressure of gigantic student loans and pursue their real goals.
Anyway, in keeping with my views and the realistic opportunities I was presented with, I got a job working at a non profit. I make a good wage by my standards, not by firm standards, and I help people that work hard and need the help. Walmart doesn't need another fucking lawyer, my paisano in the field needs one and his wife back at the maquiladora needs one and their kids in the campo need one. I'm doing something that is useful to real people.
This summer I've been reading the other blawgs and it is weird to me how different things are at the big firms than at my place. They have offices, fancy computers, secretaries, paid lunches, and this and the other thing. We have almost none of this. I actually use my own laptop at work because we don't have any extra computers. I share an office, which is actually much cooler because I've always got someone there to help me out. They bought me lunch twice last week and that was great, but normally I brown bag it. I don't have a secretary, which is cool because I would be embarrassed to ask someone else to type something or fax something for me. I'm not ten years old, I can type and work the fax machine.
The thing I'm most interested in is the free lunch at the big firms. All that money comes from their clients. Our clients don't have any money so it's not a temptation to charge things to anyone's account. But big firms offer opulent lunches, secretaries for their clerks, outings to baseball games and everything else because they charge their clients so much. The clients take the big billing fees as a sign that the firm is "The Best".
It kind of stuns me, but it also makes sense. The client knows he's getting bilked to pay for a bunch of kids in their first year to go eat $150 lunches in Manhattan, and that proves that their firm is the best. It's kind of like the dot.com thing. If your company can waste the most money, you obviously have the most talented workers. Therefore if your employees spend all day playing with nerf toys and your website has yet to generate any income everyone should invest a lot of money in it. If it costs more it must be better.
What a jury is going to look at is whether or not the plaintiff got the short end of the stick and if the defendant should pay for it. Maybe a guy billing $300 an hour can prove that Farm Owner Smith purposely screwed Field Worker Rudolfo out of minimum wage better than the lawyers at our place, but I have a hard time believing he can do it so well that it justifies that billing. These lawyers go up against government attorneys all the time, they don't win enough to justify their billing. That's a natural fact.
The up side of this for me is that even if I feel like I did something that was kind of dull, the toilet memo for example, I know that it helped someone who works hard and it's not being used only to generate billing and pay for televisions in the elevators. I can be proud of that. I don't think I could be proud of myself at if I write a memo on how Walmart hasn't violated employer law because it contracted with someone else who worked the janitorial staff 50 hours a week but only paid them $250 a week, even if I got to go eat lunch at Chez whatever.