Above the Law

get a dogAre you unhappy as a Biglaw attorney, but terrified to leave the salary, the comfort, and the prestige of Biglaw? Have you ever uttered the phrase, “I would love a dog, but not with my schedule…”? If you answered “yes” to both of these questions, a furry little friend might help you make your transition out of the stressful, awful time-suck that is your job and into something a little more humane.

I was able to leave Biglaw behind, and with the power of hindsight, I realize that adopting my dog was a great first step to walk out the door. Of course this sounds a little crazy, but I’ll tell you a few reasons why getting a dog can help you leave:

(1) You have to learn to prioritize something other than your clients. Your dog needs to be walked and fed. Your dog needs you to play with him. Your dog needs you to spend time with him, other than a few hours on the weekends. Otherwise, your dog could end up a hellishly-behaved dog, fat and sick, or worse, dead. Those are real consequences that might force you to rearrange your schedule to make time for the puppy. As a result, you might also notice that YOU need exercise, YOU need to be fed, YOU need play time, and YOU need social interaction. (Saturday night conference call? Sorry, no, that’s play time!)

(2) You will have a very difficult time answering emails while walking your dog. The longer you’re in Biglaw, the more desensitized you become to the fact that you’re chained to your email. It’s a simple fact that there is no separation between you and work. EVER. But try answering client emails while your pooch is tangling his leash around you, darting back and forth to pee on every tree he sees, or trying to fight (or hump) the next dog he sees on the street. I dare you. Eventually, you might learn to leave the Blackberry at home and enjoy the brisk walks without worrying about whether you’re promptly responding to the last reply-all. Those walks with your pup will give you the reprieve you need to breathe and realize what it’s like to live a “normal” life, even for 20 minutes at a time.

(3) You have to leave at a reasonable hour. Without a dog or other major responsibility (like children), there are sometimes more reasons to stay late at your Biglaw job than there are reasons to leave: free dinner, free car service, no flack from the higher-ups for leaving, brownie points over your peers who did leave early, etc. When you have a dog, you have two options: (a) leave at a somewhat reasonable hour to take care of the dog (see #1 above) or (b) pay someone an exorbitant fee to do it for you (New Yorkers, you’re looking at costs of about $500 or more per month for just walks. More for daycare. More for overnights.) Sometimes, when #1 doesn’t seem like a good enough excuse to cut out “early,” the financial disincentive of spending an extra $50 to let your dog spend the night somewhere might give you the kick in the pants you need to leave the office at a reasonable hour. Still need to get stuff done after you leave? You get to finish your work in your PJs with your little buddy curled up in your lap.

Adopting my dog, Brady, was the first of many changes that I made in my life to transition out of Biglaw: once I began to take care of him, I started to realize that I needed to take care of myself. And the rest is history.

Megan Grandinetti is a New York city-based attorney, health coach, and yoga teacher. Megan’s work as a health coach focuses on improving the health and wellness of lawyers. Find out more about Megan (a.k.a. “Health Coach Meg”) by visiting www.thelawyershealthcoach.com or her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/healthcoachmegnyc.