The Unbearable Lightness of Being a Big Firm Lawyer

There is job satisfaction even in dissatisfying situations.  For example, the defenders of the Alamo believed in the cause they were fighting for, and even when being shot at by irate Mexican troops outnumbering them, they still managed to keep up their spirits.  Similarly, the people stuck on the hijacked TWA airplane in Jordan in September 1970 who were later released after weeks of being trapped in economy class and facing death threats nonetheless had a certain stoic “that’s what we went through, and it worked out” attitude.  It was their job to be as satisfied as possible in a dissatisfying situation.  So it’s no surprise that young lawyers still sign up to be big firm lawyers.  There’s a concept of “paying your dues,” and “getting good training,” and “paying of law school student loans.”  These are all real things – sort of.  There isn’t often that much real training that goes on in big law firms, it’s often more in the way of paying your dues with boring and rather low-skilled document reviews and document productions.  But hey, we all did it, right?  So the newbies should too, it’s only fair.  That was the way until recently.

But things have changed since the COVID-19 pandemic.  The ultimate office people were the attorneys.  Attorneys’ hours were legendarily bad.  They even bragged about not leaving the office, sometimes for days on end.  But when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, they were forced to stay home or at least away from the office.  That meant that those lawyers discovered a whole new way of doing business – remotely, comfortably, and often in boxershorts and pajama bottoms that were entirely invisible and unnoticed in Zoom conferences.  Most famously, there were even court hearings in the COVID-19 era in which lawyers’ faces were transformed into cats (thes Honor, I am not a cat” video).  

Most of all, even beyond the better lifestyle and work-life balance that the non-office-based work style entailed, lawyers found themselves able to serve clients more informally and more personally.  There was a new appreciation of the human element of lawyering, as everyone’s children, pets, and significant others made cameo appearances on the video conference screens.As a result of this change in work environment and work style, lawyers who used to be brick-and-mortar law firm lawyers in the more traditional law firm style suddenly decided that it made sense to branch out in new directions.  As a result, new forms of remote lawyering were developed including the fractional general counsel model.  Companies like Inside Outside Counsel began to offer attorneys and their clients a new and more pleasant model of business lawyering using the fractional in-house general counsel model.  The fractional general counsel way of working allows lawyers to both work remotely and provide excellent, dedicated lawyering to their clients.  They have all of the lifestyle benefits while providing a high quality legal service solution to those companies seeking fractional general counsel services at a fraction of the cost of traditional law firms or hiring own’s own full-time in-house business lawyer.  As a result of the unbearable lightness of being a big firm lawyer, many attorneys are jumping ship to practice law in this new remote way.  To their great joy and that of their clients and those who know them.