Will Meyerhofer

Your ATL editors: David Lat, Staci Zaretsky, and Elie Mystal.

Thanks a lot to everyone who came out on Wednesday night to attend the Above the Law New Year’s party!

The festivities were well-attended, and the bar was full of action — no seriously, there may or may not have been a couple making out the whole night. Thanks to our sponsor, Lateral Link, for such a great evening.

Yeah yeah, we know, it’s the internet, so of course this post is “WWOP.” So let’s get some pics up in here….

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Ed. note: This post is by Will Meyerhofer, a former Sullivan & Cromwell attorney turned psychotherapist. He holds degrees from Harvard, NYU Law, and The Hunter College School of Social Work, and he blogs at The People’s Therapist. His new book, Way Worse Than Being A Dentist, is available on Amazon, as is his previous book, Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy (affiliate links).

Someone posted the following astonishing comment in response to one of my columns a few months back:

“I’ve never worked in a Biglaw firm, but what happens if an associate just says no, I am busy this weekend, or no, I am on vacation that week, so I won’t be able to do that project. Do you immediately get fired? If that’s true, then you must not really have much to offer to the firm in the first place. In a situation where the associate had some real value to offer to the firm, I do not see why the firm would fire someone for that. Am I hopelessly naive?”

Go ahead — laugh. Get it out of your system. You know perfectly well your guffaws wear thin, right about when that twinge of poignancy creeps in. You, too, once mulled the notion of rising above the fray — going all Bartleby the Scrivener and muttering, “I’d prefer not to,” when asked — oops, I mean told — to work and work and work and work and work….

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A not-so-little house on the prairie. It looks like a Wright, right?

Are you having a difficult time finding a position in the depressed legal job market? Maybe you need to think about relocating. Have you considered moving to Iowa? As noted by Vivia Chen over at The Careerist, the “Life Changing” state is experiencing a lawyer shortage.

Lawyer jobs and husks of corn aren’t all that Iowa has to offer. The state also has a reasonable cost of living, including some very well-priced real estate.

Take the Iowa home of a former partner Biglaw partner and former general counsel to a major media company. This lovely residence is currently on the market for a surprisingly modest sum….

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Ed. note: This post is by Will Meyerhofer, a former Sullivan & Cromwell attorney turned psychotherapist. He holds degrees from Harvard, NYU Law, and The Hunter College School of Social Work, and he blogs at The People’s Therapist. His new book, Way Worse Than Being A Dentist, is available on Amazon, as is his previous book, Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy (affiliate links).

I participated recently in a panel discussion at a conference, speaking with other lawyer/blogger types in front of an audience consisting largely of people from law firms and law schools. After we finished, I did the decent thing and sat and listened to the panel that followed mine. I happened to choose an empty seat next to a woman who introduced herself to me later as a dean at a law school, in charge of career placement, or whatever the euphemism is for trying to find students non-existent jobs. The law school was a small one — yes, one of those dreaded “third tier” places.

She confronted me afterwards. “I guess I’m the bad guy, huh?”

I was startled by her candor, but I knew what she meant. This was one of those people from a third tier law school — the greedy cynical fraudsters signing kids up for worthless degrees, then leaving them high and dry, unemployed and deeply in debt.

Despite her participation in crimes against humanity, I had to admit she didn’t seem so bad, in person.

Then I snapped back to my senses — and went on the attack, assuming my sacred role as The People’s burning spear of vengeance….

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Ed. note: This post is by Will Meyerhofer, a former Sullivan & Cromwell attorney turned psychotherapist. He holds degrees from Harvard, NYU Law, and The Hunter College School of Social Work, and he blogs at The People’s Therapist. His new book, Way Worse Than Being A Dentist, is available on Amazon, as is his previous book, Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy (affiliate links).

Remember Green Acres, that fish-out-of-water comedy wherein Eddie Albert drags Eva Gabor out to live on some tumbledown farm in the middle of nowhere? She’s a Park Avenue socialite, but he’s the husband and the penis-haver and it’s the 1960′s — so what he says, goes. If he’s jonesing for fresh air and farm living, she has no choice.

I don’t remember much more than the theme song and opening credits, but the concept — giving it all up, packing your bags and fleeing for the sticks, spouse (and maybe kids) in hand — resonates with my lawyer clients. Some are beginning to sound like aspiring Eddie Alberts.

I’d like to say there’s a great lawyer return to the land on the way — driven by a love for nature and the outdoors. To some extent that’s true. But mostly, it’s a product of desperation. The big themes are escaping Biglaw misery, seeking adventure, looking for a healthier lifestyle… and fleeing school loans. One client’s story weaves these themes into a magical tapestry of personal growth, spiritual awakening, and debt avoidance.

He was suffering modestly at a Biglaw firm in L.A. Then he got posted to an office in Asia, where he happened to speak the language. There he discovered how bad bad can be. The U.S. office dished out standard-issue Biglaw brutality. Nothing could have prepared him for the Asia office. The cruelties committed by the local staff and attorneys would make Hieronymus Bosch wince. In their laser-beam-like focus on punishing my client for speaking their language and attempting to work in their homeland, they achieved new plateau of sadism on a weekly basis. He developed insomnia, migraines, then panic attacks — and was fired a year later, without comment.

That’s when the Green Acres theme began playing in his head….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Green Acres: How To Get Away From It All (Including Your Student Loans)”

Ed. note: This post is by Will Meyerhofer, a former Sullivan & Cromwell attorney turned psychotherapist. He holds degrees from Harvard, NYU Law, and The Hunter College School of Social Work, and he blogs at The People’s Therapist. His new book, Way Worse Than Being A Dentist, is available on Amazon, as is his previous book, Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy (affiliate links).

When I launched The People’s Therapist, my intent was to get stuff off my chest — process a smidgen of psychic trauma. I’d write a column or two, exorcise the odd demon, piss off Sullivan & Cromwell, and call it a day.

It never occurred to me I’d be deluged with lawyers as clients.

It never, ever occurred to me I’d be deluged with partners as clients.

It never so much as crossed my mind they’d be so unhappy.

It turns out being a partner can be… not all that. For many of my clients, the job boils down to evil middle management.

Permit me to explain….

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Ed. note: This post is by Will Meyerhofer, a former Sullivan & Cromwell attorney turned psychotherapist. He holds degrees from Harvard, NYU Law, and The Hunter College School of Social Work, and he blogs at The People’s Therapist. His new book, Way Worse Than Being A Dentist, is available on Amazon, as is his previous book, Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy (affiliate links).

My client is finishing her 1L year. She’s bored.

“I study. Then I study some more. Then I go to sleep. Then I get up and study again. It’s the same for everyone.”

At least, I proposed, the subject matter was interesting.

She demurred. “Yeah, I guess… but — really? I mean… Property law? Contracts? Torts?”

Her demurrer was sustained. She had a point.

Maybe it’s your turn to demur. The subject matter of law schoollaw itself — not interesting!?? That’s unthinkable. It has to be the school’s fault — my client must be attending some fourth-tier degree mill, with subpar teaching, and a dull-witted student body….

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Ed. note: This post is by Will Meyerhofer, a former Sullivan & Cromwell attorney turned psychotherapist. He holds degrees from Harvard, NYU Law, and The Hunter College School of Social Work, and he blogs at The People’s Therapist. His new book, Way Worse Than Being A Dentist, is available on Amazon, as is his previous book, Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy (affiliate links).

You’re different. You disdain the crass blandishments of Biglaw. You have a soul. Let the giant firms seduce your naïve classmates with their shameless wheedling. You’re made of sterner stuff.

Your ultimate goal? Something better. A place where you might actually do good. Few lawyers receive that opportunity. Many, exposed to goodness, would burst into flames.

That’s why you’re taking the high road, escaping the pervasive cynicism and greed. You’ve got your sights set on a not-for-profit institution, dedicated to the promise of a better tomorrow.

Will it work? Can a lawyer escape pervasive cynicism and greed?

Seems unlikely….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Goodie Two-Shoes”

Ed. note: This post is by Will Meyerhofer, a former Sullivan & Cromwell attorney turned psychotherapist. He holds degrees from Harvard, NYU Law, and The Hunter College School of Social Work, and he blogs at The People’s Therapist. His new book, Way Worse Than Being A Dentist, is available on Amazon, as is his previous book, Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy (affiliate links).

A visit to my office has evolved into something akin to the road to Lourdes. Pilgrims arrive red-eyed and defeated, faces etched with misery, searching for a way out of a trap.

The standard story is some variant of the following: You are either out of work or loathe your work. You have $180k in loans. You have either no income or an impermanent income paid to you in exchange for any joy life might offer. You see no hope.

Let me spell out the critical element here: You are one hundred and eighty thousand dollars in debt.

Just to fully drive the point home: that’s bankruptcy-proof debt.

You’ve yelled at your parents, but it’s not really their fault. You’ve wept and wailed and gotten drunk and stoned and consumed a scrip of Xanax. You’ve tried sleeping and pretending you don’t have to wake up.

Then comes the pilgrimage. Perhaps I can heal with a laying on of hands….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The ‘It Gets Worse’ Project”

Ed. note: This post is by Will Meyerhofer, a former Sullivan & Cromwell attorney turned psychotherapist. He holds degrees from Harvard, NYU Law, and The Hunter College School of Social Work, and he blogs at The People’s Therapist. His new book, Way Worse Than Being A Dentist, is available on Amazon, as is his previous book, Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy (affiliate links).

At Barnes & Noble, where I once worked as a marketing exec, we bandied about the phrase “aspirational purchase” to portray a small, but profitable segment of our sales.

Aspirational purchase meant you bought the book not because you were going to read it, but because you aspired to read it. You might even convince yourself you were going to — but in all likelihood, it would serve as a pretentious coffee table tchotchke, an impressive (if un-cracked) spine on a decorative bookshelf, or a useful device to prop up a little kid’s butt so he could reach the cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving.

An aspirational purchase is intended to impress — you want to be seen buying it. It tends to be something conservative as well. And long. And difficult. “War and Peace” is the classic aspirational purchase, but you might also pick up something with a political message that makes you look wise and open-minded, like “The Satanic Verses” (which, for the record, I actually read.) (No, I’ve never plumbed War and Peace. However, I embrace the fact that plenty of you certainly have read it, and yes, loved it and desire for me to acknowledge you’ve read it and how much you loved it — to which I reply, in advance, how very nice for you.)

Law school is an aspirational purchase….

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