Thursday, April 9, 2009

BigLaw Lawyer Says BigLaw Lawyers Are Dunces

I get dinged a little for my unabashed criticism of that complete waste of a career we all call BigLaw. The apologists for that method of legal services that only serves to pay for access to bigger lines of credit and more associates to convince clients they need 12 lawyers on a 2 lawyer deal is at its end. And no, I couldn't get a job there when I graduated, not even an interview. I had to toil at the public defender's office building a criminal defense career which now finds me taking a week off and writing this from a beach.

Now BigLaw is finding dissention among the ranks. My favorite person of the day, Elizabeth Wurtzel, says in this must read article, that BigLaw is nothing more than a "march of dunces."

She confesses: "Corporate attorneys like me, even those with the eyesight and insight of Mr. Magoo, all should have been able to see this financial collapse coming."

She puts it on the table: "And whatever lessons the powers that be might learn from this adjustment -- that salary structure should change, or that the billable hour is an anachronism -- it seems no one has stated the obvious: The whole system is warped."

She divulges the unbelievable: That New York Big Law "junior associates have been known to sneak out of the office and head home by six o'clock. Exposed to the sunshine that exists outside of corporate skyscrapers for the first time, these people now know what we've all been telling them for years: The sky is actually blue."

She rips out the heart of all that is BigLaw: "The emergency-room atmosphere that permeated the processing of derivatives deals, corporate takeovers, and whatever else has been going on at Goldman, Bear, Citi and Merrill for the past decade, could rival that of an operating room during open-heart surgery. Only, of course, it was a matter of money -- not life or death."

She puts it into perspective like I've never read: "I would love to call the system despicable or detestable or something evil-sounding, but that would be giving it too much credit. It's really just the march of dunces. A dozen years worth of sleepless nights down the drain like dirty bathwater. Pity these people"


Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. Please visit



Anonymous said...

Wurtzel is not a lawyer. She failed the July 2008 NY Bar Exam, and is thus a law school graduate.

Unknown said...

Her article also conflicts, to some extent, with her previous Q&A with the Blog:

“Your first week sounded crazy. You walked right in on the Wachovia situation, right? ”

“I did. Had I started a week earlier, my life might have been much different, but I got there too late to really get all that involved. But I did some research on it and I watched the team work. People were so devoted and serious and took great pains to look at every possible argument. It was very impressive to watch. People were there for a couple nights in a row, and I honestly found the dedication everyone showed really pretty moving. “

My Law License said...

Interesting, although technically a law school graduate is a "lawyer," just a lawyer not admitted to practice and therefore not an "attorney at law."

Irrelevant to this discussion is that "lawyers" in my opinion are those that practice law. The rest are people with law degrees doing other things.

Thanks for the info.

Unknown said...

Brian, for more read this. She just picked up the phone and called David Boeies to get a job.

RH said...

So if she says "corporate attorneys like me" is that sanctionable? I mean is that not holding herself out as an attorney when she is not in fact one? NY Bar website does not return any listing for an Elizabeth Wurtzel and neither does her claimed firm website.

I mean I'm not one to defend the "biglaw" model and I think the "experience" junior associates get at these big firms is pretty worthless as far as real lawyering, but it seems a little odd for this person, who is not a lawyer and has barely been working (interning? clerking? what can she be doing?) at a firm for 6 months (if that?) saying "we have been telling junior associates this for years." Who is "we" and what kind of experience does she have to be telling anyone?

I'm a lawyer newbie myself but I do know that I don't know much.

Anonymous said...

It's well known that she failed it. Just google it. Feb 2009 results for NY have not come out yet.

Jonathan said...

Well if that's how she feels, that's not much of a reflection on her. As a published author she had plenty of options, and yet she chose to go to law school as a non-trad and join the Biglaw treadmill as an associate at the age of 39!!!

Anonymous said...

Brian, "Attorney" and "lawyer" are synonymous. Graduating law school makes you a JD, nothing more. Certainly not a lawyer nor an attorney. Don't believe me, just try and hang open a firm calling yourself a lawyer and watch the sanctions roll in.

Wurtzel is not licensed to practice and is neither a lawyer or an attorney.

Anonymous said...

Brain I have no idea why you are salivating about Wurtzel's comments.

First off, I find it disingenious that Elizabeth Wurtzel can speak with such indignation at the “system.” She is a well-established author who got into Yale law school and is working (worked?) at Boise Schiller, a prominent litigation firm with many large corporate clients. According to Wikipedia, she is still at the firm despite failing the NY state bar (

Why did she go to Yale law school? Was it to save babies? Probably not, as she summered and worked at Biglaw. In fact, I remember reading somewhere (though I can’t find the link) that she wanted to go law school to find financial security from the unpredictable publishing world. That’s fair enough, but with such fame, she could’ve easily found financial security in many other ways. Law school was probably the easiest (and let’s face it, least creative way to make money).

Sorry, Elizabeth, I simply can not take your piece seriously given your wealth and circumstances. You did not have to go to law school and you did not have to work in Biglaw. You could have done something worthwhile with your degree.

South Florida Lawyers said...

I have to agree with some of these comments.

Aside from her brief time there, she is working at Boise Schiller -- certainly a large firm, but not exactly the traditional white-shoe worker bee model, given its unusual compensation structure.

Anonymous said...

and you brian are a bitter little fellow

Anonymous said...

About Elizabeth...I guess BigLaw types can act snarky and shoot the messenger, but I haven't yet see seen here an effective refutation of her point...