Monday, November 13, 2006


When I was teaching and a part time law student my coworkers used to tease me about how in a few short years I'd be banking major money as a lawyer. But lawschool is not a "ticket to the deluxe apartment in the sky" You can graduate and start at 200K or 20K. Same education. Same school. And it does not always correlate with "The better the student the better the pay" The director of the ACLU graduated #1 in his class with his pick of firms but he went public interest making a quarter of what he would have made otherwise living in a tiny one room studio and riding a bike to work. I'm a public interest girl. I went to law school to do civil rights work in some capacity. Dream job is a public interest job, if I get it, I'm not exactly going to start wearing gucci and prada upon graduation. And it never really bothered me until today.

In preparation for "dream job" I had several mock interviews at some highfalutin fancy schmancy law firms. I felt I walked into Cribs- Law Firm Edition or Lifestyles of the rich and famous firms. Sleek contemporary furniture, abstract art encased in gold frames, hardwood floors, marble conference tables, winding stair cases and imposing conference rooms.

I felt a twinge. A desire to sit at such tables. To smile at the receptionist in her "Apprentice" like seating and walk up the winding staircase. It felt strange to sit with these lawyers as they advised me on strategy for my interview. I felt the way I would walking into Ben Affleck's mansion, sitting by his olympic pool as we snack on caviar and he helps me learn how to become an actor but only in small independent features- not blockbusters. A part of you just kind of twinges seeing all the duniya knowing what could have been yours if you had wanted it when it all began. It was a fleeting feeling but I felt it and the way it made me feel surprised me.

Dream job interviews are just a few days away and I'm nervous because its exactly what I want. And to be that close to my dream is frightening. However, life doesnt say "that's okay I'll wait" while I prep for interviews. So much is happening at seemingly breakneck speed. I'm preoccupied, worried, and feeling more than a little overwhelmed.

Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother- Khalil Gibran


Anonymous said...

You worked at a big firm last summer, right? How did you find that experience?


Aisha said...

Salaam Rasha, I checked my previous posts but I don think I ever said I worked at a big firm. It was a medium sized corporate firm and it was nice but these I visited this past week were in a league of their own :)

Aisha said...

and I wont be working at a firm like that. hence the twinge. are you interested in the firm thing?

Anonymous said...

sorry - i guess i assumed big firm when you said corporate firm (and described the office and the window). inshallah i'm working in a "big" firm this summer, and that's why i was wondering how your experience was. but big and medium is all relative. the firm i'm going to work for this summer is big for the city i live in, but may not be big for NYC and DC. so, when you say medium-size, how many attorneys were at the firm?

mAn[S]o0r said...

The allure of the corporate lifestyle is all powerful :(

Aisha said...

Rasha, about 50-55 in my office. Congrats on the summer internship!

Mansoor, indeed :) it is.

Anonymous said...

That's what I would think of as 'medium' too. And thanks for the congrats. I'm really excited.

mystic-soul said...

They say...little anxiety is a postive thing !!!

Destitute Rebel said...

It is seldom that we end up doing our "dream jobs" - the lust for material things mostly overtakes the drive to do good in these days, good luck.

Tee said...

An old Cherokee story:

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, "My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all."

One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: "Which wolf wins?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

......Keep feeding the good wolf, Aisha :)

Aisha said...

Mystic I guess :)

destitute you think so? hmm... I can see how it could in theory. in real life I guess I see people hwo believe passionately remain so despite outsde influences.

Tee. dont even know how to tell you how powerful that story was for me. Wow. That is meaningful on so many different levels for me. I read it and I am still thinking about it. Thank you so much for sharing that. Wonderful story.

Maleeha said...

Ahh, I'm with you girl. So with you. In my case, Sabir will be working at that fancy shamancy law firm so the allure of it will be in my face all. the. time. But no, cant go down that road. I even tried to see if I could do it, and I cant. If I found the work interesting, I would do it in a second, but I just dont.

I also have a big interview coming up this Friday and I'm so nervous. InshaAllah we'll all get whats best for us!

Baji said...

It is okay to be tempted and to want nice things, but don't sell your dreams in the process, because we only get one life on this earth.

Great story, Tee!

Anonymous said...

some lawyers start at 200k?? that sounds like a lot. are you sure that's right?

Aisha said...

Maleeha, good luck on your interview Friday!!! Are you guys staying MI or is it CA?

Baji, thanks for the reminder. Wow your comment and Tee's are really inspring me :)

Anon, I did not check a database of lawyer salaries before composing my post. I do not know. I was simply trying to say the difference between the two are big. If you're curious check out us news and world they should have entry level salaries for you.

Anonymous said...

i know that new associates at some big firms in NYC and other bigger cities start at $145,000.

(I don't live in such a city :)


momyblogR said...

Wow, Tee's comment was great. How I wish more people fed the good wolf. *sigh*

All of the glamour and shine you saw would appeal to anyone. How could you not feel a twinge of "wow, I could be a part of all this, and make the bigs bucks if this is what I choose." The thing is, we all have to look at ourselves and decide it that is who we really are.

All things come at a price, it's just a matter of how much we are willing to pay.

I'm never to quick with the pen!

Maleeha said...

CA, inshaAllah. Our days in MI are numbered :)

Saadia said...

You do make a monetary sacrifice when working for a non-profit, but then you just have to decide which is the most important step in this stage of your career. Some people get private sector experience first, do some pro-bono, and then move onto social goals. But both private sector glamour and the non-profit prestige make us feel proud, so if its a sense of pride you are seeking, you'll find it in both places and it will be hard to decide. So its important to think about the career goals and then I think it will sort itself out.

Saadia said...

Although for private sector, since I've been there, you also have to wonder if its part of your career track and if its helping you. Sometimes the danger is the "golden handcuffs" and those handcuffs can sometimes make it feel like you are not in charge of your career destiny. Taking a lower paying job at first, but one which provides some sort of visible path to you, may well be worth it. Such is the case with me now.

Saadia said...

For my first comment, an example is with practicing international law or working for the UN. In some cases you need experience with private sector first so you are well trained by the time you go into a place that may not have the resources to train you.

ABCDlaw said...

I came across your blog through Sobia's and am really glad i did because you're in a place I hope to be in about a year LAW SCHOOL.I've just started down this road and already i'm scared.
But anyways, I really enjoyed your post because it gave me something to think about. Why do I want to go to law school? For $$? to help others? for respect?

Anonymous said...

I audited a very fancy schmancy law firm in Manhattan when I used to work back in the late 90's. Audit firms and law firms work very much the same way, big expense accounts, fancy clothes, fancy clients, but I found the majority of the people who worked at these organizations were not happy. The long hours(typical workdays were about 14 hours, more during busy season) and the constant stress to produce results in a minimal amount of time lead to alot of stress. Many people never got a chance to enjoy their "deluxe apartments", they were only home to sleep for a few hours before they returned to work. I must say, however, we did enjoy some fancy lunches fit for royalty entertaining clients, and I learned alot about the art of socializing and using the proper forks and table etiquette just by watching those more experienced around me.

I think in hindsight, it's better to do a job that makes you happy and pays you little, than one that pays you alot and makes you miserable. I left the fancy audit firm for a job with less hours and less pay and found I had much more time to enjoy my life. The smaller paycheck wasn't even noticed.

Aisha said...

Rasha yeah that seems about right. I read that the big ones here start you at 115 with 15K sign on bonus. Must be nice! :)

Mommyblogr your advice really resonates with me. Its about who you are. It really is. I think though the material would be nice somewhere in my heart I would feel a sense of guilt. Its so funny b/c I debated when teaching to take a job at a private academy where rich folks kids go, like Wesley Snipes kid, Outback CEO, etc. I'd make wayyyyy more and the kids are all curious and the parents quite involved... I felt so GUILTY considering it. People tried to make me feel better saying that I deserved a chance to just teach these kids, etc. In the end I pursued it only half heartedly and did not end up teaching there. I'm glad I did not go. But the allure of more I guess, will always be there. Its not bad to get more if you can, but it is just the question of, what you have to give up or do in order to get it, is that worth it? If could find a career in something I LOVED that also let me live like P.Diddy sign me up. But if not, I'll stay the way I am and at least be true to me. Just beacuse someone else is fine doing XYZ doesnt make it true for me. Phew. Long enough for you?

Saadia wow that is also great advice and insight. Thank you. I know I can always count on you for good pearls of wisdom :). I do need to look at my career objectives and how can I best acheive them. Though that is very obvious its something you can someitmes overlook.

Pyari welcome to th eblog and thanks for commenting. I'm agld this post gave you food for thought! Feel free to email me anytime if you have questions about law school.

Chic, yes the descriptions you give sound very much like the things I saw there. The fancy dining the clothing, etc. And you are so right, the ppl I know who work at the big ones, are not partcularly happy. They are so busy, so overworked... I never see them. It is about priorities. Thanks for the reminder.

rehtwo said...

I do work in a fairly large firm (but I'm a paralegal, so life is slightly different)...I met an associate in the elevator when I was leaving at 3:30 AM the other day...he just looked at me and sighed "Tragic, isn't it?". He then informed me that his goal for the day was to leave the office by 4 AM, and he'd accomplished that. I think that's why the perks are so nice and the salaries for these attorneys are so high - they HAVE to be, to entice people to work the hours that they do. (So basically I'm agreeing with Chic Mommy.)

Anonymous said...

Rehtwo - Wow. 3:30 AM. That's not too encouraging. Which city do you live in?


Aisha said...

Rehtwo.... you are working till 3:30AM?! OH MY GOSH. I knew they work people late at those types of firms I didnt realize that late. I always thought about how if you divide the amount of time and days spent how the money really stops looking so good. You earn every penny of what you make when a lawyer for these firms. My friend Syed works at a big corporate office and he said seeing their lawyres makes him never want to be one. He says they stay till 1-2am. But 4am!?! I had another coworker who took a lesser paying job after her law firm kept making her reschedule her fittings for her wedding. She said they made her life hell because she needed personal time during her wedding. She couldnt take it anymore. Eun Ha, let me ask you this, I knwo you are interested in going to law school, does this experience at this firm make you sure you dont want to do this kind of work, or does it not scare you? Does it help you focus in on what type of lawy you might want to practice?

rehtwo said...

Rasha - I work in NYC - right in midtown Manhattan, where it seems like EVERYONE who wears dress pants and heels to work, no matter what their profession, works that kind of hours or worse. That being said, I don't usually work that late, though I do often work overtime.

Aisha - you know, I went into this job hoping that it would help me figure things out. I'm definitely still fascinated by law, and while Big Law is definitely intimidating for multiple reasons, I have a HUGE amount of respect for (most) of my attorneys, and some of the cases that I work on (that I find really interesting) I know usually only go to firms like mine. That being said, the whole crazy partner/associate hierarchy thing annoys me somewhat, and the hours and stress do concern me. I appreciate the resources and perks that I have available to me even as a lowly paralegal - it's nice, for instance, to know that if I stay late, I can get a car ride home at no personal cost. I'll stop taking up all of your space - maybe I'll post on my own, though I try to avoid blogging about work.

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