Economics 101 (Slackoisie Version)

The griping entitlement of the Slackoisie, Gen X and Y to the uninitiated, may have hit the wall with the death of guaranteed Biglaw bonuses.  All those self-proclaimed brilliant young lawyers for whom the career path to fabulous wealth and importance was clearly promised are now shaking.  Where will their next bag of cheese doodles come from?

The Slackoisie will now experience something that their parents and grandparents enjoyed.  Economic disaster.  Before, they felt needed, wanted, the only game in town.  As the newest lawyer stepped out of the law school door, the profession had to adapt to them as they were the only game in town.  When a law firm needed some new young associates to prepare memos or cull deposition transcripts, they had only the Slackoisie to chose from.  They had to capitulate.  Either let them come to work in flip-flops or do the work yourself.

But as markets contract and kids in blue jeans with outstanding loans are politely asked to gather their belongings, the equation has changed.  No longer are you in a position to dictate the terms and conditions of your employment.  You cannot demand balloons and parties simply because you deigned to show up before 9 a.m.  Your philosophical aversion to following the directions of the gal signing your paycheck will no longer be tolerated.  No one wants to hear your opinion on how the firm should be run.

Yes, these are difficult times for young lawyers.  Yes, you have crushing obligations.  Yes, you can blame this horrible world on Boomer Bush, because all baby boomers are of one mind and have a secret handshake, which is used immediately before coming up with new ways of exploiting you and interfering with your happy days of playing Halo 3.

One option available to you, which may force a seismic shift in your paradigm, is going solo.  This is not an option for the timid or lazy, however.  You will have no one to complain to or about.  Your clients, if you have any, won’t care how you feel about things because they are far too busy caring about how they feel about things.  That’s how clients work.

If you are fortunate enough to have clients, they will expect you to perform for them in exchange for paying you.  This is not a novel concept, no matter how foreign it may seem to you.  This was how your old bosses did things, while you were insulated from the harsh business aspect of the practice.  Your clients will call you or come to you with the expectation that you will provide legal services.  They will expect your services to be timely, professional and minimally competent.  They will not care about your work/life balance, and your need to take a “mental health day” off at the expense of a filing deadline will not be understood or accepted.  Clients can be so darned unreasonable.

Worse still will be those who go solo but obtain no clients.  Here’s a bit of a secret: All the blawging for profit claims in the world will never substitute for being a good lawyer.  Search engine optimization is not the quintessential element of professional success.  Even if you do get a client or two, they will soon realize that your highly ranked blog or website masks an incompetent who cannot perform their legal work.  They will not love your beautiful blog enough to suffer your incompetence. 

The sad truth is that most of you will not succeed as solo practitioners, whether because of your lack of entrepreneurial spirit and work ethic or because there are just too darned many lawyers and not enough paying clients.  Some people just aren’t suited to wondering whether the phone will ring today, and someone with money in the bank will be on the other end.  Solo practice can be a far more difficult road than its proponents let on, and not everyone has nerves of steel.

For those lawyers for whom solo isn’t going to work, there is always the option of getting a job.  But this time around, the job may be very different.  Your ersatz employer will expect you to come to work on time, dressed appropriately, and perform the tasks demanded of you.  The partner will give you instructions, and you will keep your mouth shut and listen.  He is not interested in how you feel about his instructions, or whether you are in the mood to comply or argue the point.  There will be no party for you during the lunch break.  Indeed, there may not even be a lunch break.  And the awards ceremony at the end of the work day has been permanently canceled.

So I offer this advice with the hope that you will take it in the spirit in which it given:  Get to work.  If you don’t, there are ten other kids who have loan payments coming due who will happily take your job.  And this time around, your choice is either do as you’re told or take a hike.  Your 15 minutes are over, your mommy doesn’t want you back home since her retirement account dropped by half and we’re all sick a tired of the whining.  

Either get to work or get lost.  You will thank me for this some day.

7 comments on “Economics 101 (Slackoisie Version)

  1. What About Clients?

    The Recession as Teacher.

    Is this the end of the right to be helpless? Our astral twin, the uncommonly cruel but clear-eyed workaholic boomer apologist, New York’s Scott Greenfield, had provocative things to say about, uh, real life, in this post: “Economics 101 (Slackoeisie…

  2. Patrick Bateman

    “Do you hear the people sing?
    Singing a song of angry men?
    It is the music of a people
    Who will not be slaves again!
    When the beating of your heart
    Echoes the beating of the drums
    There is a life about to start
    When tomorrow comes!”

    Generally, due to crushing student debt, people my age had and have little invested in the system that just failed. We are hungry, but not in a way you understand. Suffering the indignity of servitude is only bearable where that servitude ends in some modicum of happiness. I want no parties, I want a future. Should I follow a partner blindly, like an infantryman, though weekends and nights, only to be laid off when PperP fall .05%? I’m not a member of Opus Dei, such suffering has no appeal. Without mutual trust, all partners have is the limited loyalty of a debt slave.

    Further, the above mentioned reduction in retirement fund values effectively means that the nights and weekends spent being a good worker bee were fruitless.

    That said, your advice is sound. Hard work is good for you. But it has to have a point.

  3. SHG

    Responsibility is the “indignity of servitude.”  So do you have a better planet to go to where you can play PSP all day and get paid for it?  Plus a bonus?  And a BMW?  We would all like to go there, but the rest of us have to work for a living.

    You want a future.  You want the future that’s wonderful for you.  It’s your right, and nobody can take it from you.  And if they try, you’re just going to stamp your feet and cry.  Mommy said you were entitled to a future, and you want it NOW!

  4. Patrick Bateman

    I want the future that you had. The future was a promise when you grew up, to my generation it is a threat.

    You are conflating responsibility and servitude. An apprentice, serving a master, sacrifices his autonomy to learn a trade. Parents are responsible for their children. Parents do not serve their children.

    Perhaps I should have put more fine a point on the term “indignity”. The once noble apprentice/master relationship in the law has been transformed recently into the relationship between a sweatshop foreman and teenage seamstress.

    Your generation took an industrial and agricultural Juggernaut and turned it into a country full of sniveling Willie Lowmans, too indebted to third world countries to take a principled stance on anything. Further,this country is now filled with individuals who, ravaged by the fever of consumerism, are too indebted personally to break out of their rat-wheel existence. Your generation, from birth, basked in a freedom of collective recklessness, and I’ll have to sweep up the wreckage. Unfortunately we didn’t have your parent’s to train us. We had you.

    Forgive me if I don’t smile while the shackles of your generation’s collective poor decision making are attached to my ankles.

    I don’t want a BMW, or a bonus. I want to find meaning in my work, and would like to have my legal career amount to more than three minute billable increments. You don’t offer that.

    I work very hard, and I am very good at what I do. I will take the future from you. You are the polish cavalry charge against the German Blitzkrieg. Ignore the changing paradigm at your own peril.

  5. SHG

    You are the poster boy for a generation of whiners.  Our lives were wonderful and yours is horrible?  So get off your fat lazy butt and make it better.  And don’t BS us with the crap about not wanting the BMW and bonus, and all you want is “meaning”.  If you want meaning, find it and stop complaining that we’re not handing it to you on a silver platter.

    And, so you know, touting yourself as hard working and good at what you do isn’t going to cut it.  I touch your self-assessment.  Who cares what you think of yourself.  If nobody wants to pay you for whatever you’re selling, then you’ve got zip.

  6. Patrick Bateman

    That is the thing, people buy what I am selling. I am 28 and I make six figures. Last year, where many of my peers received no bonus, I received 20% of base. I could send you my exceeds expectations performance reviews, and my pay stubs, but you would likely find some way to make me a “whiner”.

    I can pay my mothers rent, or my fathers mortgage for a year with my after tax bonus alone.

    When I am out from under my six figure student loan debt, three years-ish, I am going to break the bonds that hold me and “make it better.”

    And given the opportunity to work for me, or eat the crap sandwich that your generation of partners expects my generation to consume with a grin, I’ll get the high fliers and you’ll keep brow-beating the duds.

    It isn’t that I want some kind of workers paradise, I just realize that, unless I become Clarence Darrow or Lincoln, 150 years from now anyone who ever spoke my name will be in the ground. If I can find meaning in what I do, and live a reasonably good lifestyle, even if that means a pay cut, I’ll be happy.

    To your factious “our lives were wonderful” comment: Your generation did harm to this country in a myriad of ways. Not recognizing that simple fact would be counterproductive. My generation will continue to make its own mistakes, but moving forward requires some reflection on what you have done.

    Just because I can make lemonade out of lemons, don’t tell me I should be happy with lemons.

  7. SHG

    Buying doesn’t refer to your being employed, Patrick, but your whining.  So what if my generation left you a terrible world, notwithstanding they it’s sufficient to pay your 6 figure salary, something you could never accomplish without my generation handing you a paycheck? 

    You want meaning?  Be a public defender.  But then, that 6 figure paycheck won’t be coming your way.  Maybe you can sign up for one of the blawgosphere marketing scams designed to appeal to your childish belief that you actually deserve to make 6 figures, just because you’re so special.

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