Antonin Scalia, Biglaw, Billable Hours, Job Searches, SCOTUS, Supreme Court

Justice Scalia’s Advice: Don’t Work Too Hard, Move to Cleveland

On Monday, as the world was learning about Justice Stephen Breyer getting robbed at machete-point, fellow Justice Antonin Scalia was getting cozy in the hallowed halls of the University of Chicago Law School.

A few years ago, Scalia criticized the law school’s political drift to the left. But just before Valentine’s Day, they kissed and made up. On Monday, Scalia gave a speech at U. Chicago, where he used to teach (and served as faculty advisor to the Federalist Society). He also offered some, how shall we say, unexpected career advice for attorneys who are just starting out….

Brian Quinn, of the M & A Law Prof Blog, was unimpressed with Justice Scalia’s advice:

Justice Scalia demonstrated how out of touch he is with the current marketplace when he recently lectured law students to do what he did coming up[.]

Wow. That’s a harsh analysis. Turns out Scalia’s tips are crazy in their simplicity. From the Chicago Sun-Times:

Asked what advice he would give law school students, Scalia told them not to work too many hours at their firms.

Come again? I must have misheard you, Your Honor. Could you please repeat that? I swear I heard you say to work fewer hours.

“Try to find a practice that enables you to maintain a human existence … time for your family, your church or synagogue, community … boy scouts, little league,” Scalia said, noting he started with Jones Day in Cleveland. “You should look for a place like that. I’m sure they’re still out there. Maybe you have to go to Cleveland.”

(Working a legal job in “flyover land” can be a smart move, as our in-house columnist David Mowry recently argued.)

Noting his son joined a California-based law firm, Scalia laughed and said, “My son Gene went to Gibson Dunn. Any big firm has the basic ethos of its head office and if the head office is in La La land, it’s gonna be a little laid back.”

Mother of pearl. While I do appreciate the nod to the West Coast’s stoner mellow culture (especially from Justice Scalia, of all people), this advice comes across as more than a little insensitive to young lawyers. Let’s set aside the fact that not “work[ing] too many hours” at a Biglaw firm is basically an oxymoron (or as Quinn wrote, “I don’t think it’s too out of school to note that Jones Day, like its peers, probably has a billing requirement for associates near 1,950 hours — even in Cleveland.”)

But a lot of recent law school graduates can’t work less, because they’re not working at all. Anyone who has spent time with unemployed people (I am on my third unemployed roommate. Don’t ask.), or has been an unemployed person, knows one of the worst things you can say is: “Chill out, bro. Everything will be fine. Just spend more time with your family, your church, and your local Little League team.”

To be fair, a lot of attorneys work way too hard. It can be very unhealthy and damaging to personal relationships. But lawyers need to be able to find jobs before they can decide to work less at them.

Scalia … out of touch [M & A Law Prof Blog]
Justice Scalia makes up with University of Chicago [Chicago Sun-Times]

Earlier: House Rules: In Defense of Clerkships in Flyover Land

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