Biglaw, Summer Associates, United Kingdom / Great Britain

Lawyers, You Can Sleep When You’re Dead

As any law student can tell you, pulling an all-nighter sucks. Biglaw associates, however, have to pull all-nighters quite frequently — and sometimes they’ll have to get by with very little sleep, for multiple nights in a row. As one of our Above the Law editors mentioned to me, a Biglaw all-nighter “is nothing like any other kind of all-nighter [he’s] ever experienced.”

So what happens when you’re on your eighth caffeinated beverage of the night and you’re still yawning? You can literally feel the small amount of blood left in your coffee stream getting ready to stage a strike if you don’t catch a few Z’s. As a young lawyer, would you even consider going to sleep? And would your firm approve?

Hell no. Don’t even think about it. You can sleep when you’re dead. But for now, you get a futuristic-looking pod to take a nap in….

Alex Aldridge, our Royal Wedding correspondent from across the pond, has a piece in the Guardian about the new sleeping arrangements that Biglaw firms in the United Kingdom are offering for their associates:

Hidden deep within the enormous glass and steel buildings that house London’s big corporate legal firms are little bedrooms where shattered lawyers can grab a quick nap. Some are done out in the style of Japanese capsule hotels, others are just plain old rooms with single beds. …

But when demands are such that a second, or even a third, consecutive night in the office is required, as is common in the runup to the closure of a big deal, these strange little rooms usually fill pretty quickly.

And in a Biglaw culture where even summer associates are asked to remain at work until five o’clock in the morning, it seems like these little nap-time pods are a necessary evil. Would this sort of a thing fly at a U.S. firm? What with last year’s bedbug pandemic in New York, I’m going to go ahead and say no.

Aldridge correctly notes that some Biglaw types actually get a kick out of pulling all-nighters, writing that many “are borne out less out of necessity and more of laddish one-upmanship.” Dear God, why? Another Above the Law contributor, Will Meyerhofer, better known to all as The People’s Therapist, may have the answer:

Sleep deprivation is like binge drinking. There’s a machismo around staying up all night, night after night –- like doing 10 shots of tequila. You’re tough. Not a problem.

Are you people really willing to zombify yourselves all for the sake of showing off your shiny little billable hour? I understand that you get paid out the wazoo to do it, but I don’t even know if it’s worth it. I guess I’d rather be well-rested than well-paid. I’m pretty happy, but a lot of my Biglaw friends are pretty miserable. And I get to sleep in a bed, and not on the floor of my office. I think I made out pretty well.

Of course, some of you wouldn’t trade the Biglaw lifestyle for the world. Whatever floats your boat, folks. As long as you’re happy doing what you’re doing, then more power to you. Just make sure you get some sleep once in a while — you don’t want to have bags under your eyes if you ever make it to partner.

The case of the sleepless lawyers [Guardian]

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