Picture, if you will, my lawyer friend, Caitlin. She’s a mid-level finance associate at one of New York’s biggest lawyer factories. She’s been at the Big Law game long enough to be depressed on the good days and on the hunt for sturdy noose material on the bad days — which is to say most days. But, as luck would have it, after months of furtive interviews, she finally got an offer a couple of weeks ago to go in-house at a media company that most people I know, including me, would kill to work for.
So, when we went out to drinks last week to celebrate, I was expecting her to be ecstatic. I was expecting her to have quit the firm within five minutes of getting the offer. What I wasn’t expecting was three hours of listening to her waver, almost to the point of tears, about whether she should take the job.
I kept pressing her — what was it about this job offer that was making her so torn? The (awesome, non-billable) hours? The (cooler) people? The (less mind-numbing) work? Finally, after four Belvedere-tonics, she leaned across the table and lowered her voice.“It’s just… I’m just afraid…” She darted her eyes around and leaned in closer, lowering her eyes.
“I’m just afraid of what it’ll be like to feel…” she whispered, “…poor.”
The offered salary of the new in-house gig? $120,000 a year.
And now, a couple of weeks later, I’m still not sure what’s more disturbing: the fact that this friend — a worldly, educated, smart, able person — truly thinks that a single lawyer living in New York City on $120,000 could feel “poor” — or that fact that she’s absolutely right….