By Peg Johnston • October 17, 2007•Firms and the Private Sector
Okay, so, in no particular order, I’m a (30-something caucasion) woman, I’m a (working) mother of two, I’m a (married-only-once-heterosexual) wife, I’m a (Fiscal) Conservative, and I’m a corporate (BigLaw) lawyer. Why am I subject to so much judging?
See the related posts and comments here, here, here, and here about the judging that goes on among women. It is no secret that I am not a fan of the “mommy wars”. Likewise, I am also not a fan of the explicit and implicit judging that goes on between the public-interest lawyers (or lawyers-to-be) and those of us that work for the corporate machine. That is the topic of this particular post. Also see this great post on this site about the same thing.
Why is there so much animosity? Why must there be this underlying tone of we’re better than you … we’re making a difference … we’re volunteering our summers away while you get overpaid?
To reinforce my point, I was actually told by a clinical professor (who was on a mission to make clinical work mandatory at his high-ranked law school) that I have a duty to work for a 'cause' as so-called pay back to society for allowing me to practice law. As you can imagine I almost fell out my seat, especially when he wanted to be able to tell me which causes I would have to “work for” during law school, never mind my moral and political disagreements. I really don’t think that society is due a pay back. I also don’t really think that society has “allowed” me to do what I do. (This society is 'by the people, for the people', etc – but that’s another topic for a different forum.) In fact, my too-high tuition at a public law school actually helped subsidize the undergrads because the law school is a profit center for the larger university.
Here’s my real complaint: I see the judging as really only happening in one direction. From my viewpoint, only the public-interest lawyers judge the BigLaw types, not the other way around. This is very similar to my impression that it is primarily the stay-at-home moms that judge the working moms. I have been trying to figure this out and it really bothers me.
Is it because the public interest lawyers really are on the moral high ground? I think in the minds of some this might be the way they feel. Maybe there are a group of corporate attorneys out there that feel some guilt about what they are doing. Maybe deep down in side they hope to be able to walk away from the big deals and dedicate themselves to helping the less fortunate someday. While I do not doubt that there are some of these folks out there, it can’t be everyone. How do I know? – I’m not one of them. I went to law school to be a big corporate lawyer and, as a woman that always achieves her goals, here I am. I gave up a long time ago thinking that I was having a unique life experience in any way so there must be others out there like me, ones that are happy to be part of the capitalist machine, happy to be working for big business.
On the other side of the coin, is BigLaw so offensive to public interest lawyers that they feel entitled to pass judgment on those of us who serve there? While I know there is a growing undercurrent of distain for the
So what gives? Why all the judging? Perhaps we are naturally inclined to judge others and prop up our own choices at every opportunity. Perhaps many are insecure in their own decisions and so have to criticize others in order to feel good. Whatever it is, I think it is unhealthy. I have no qualms about the career choice I’ve made, and you public interest lawyers out there shouldn’t either.
I know this blog post comes off as really judgmental on my part. Hmmmm, I guess that's the irony in my basic complaint. I am judging even as I rail against the judge-ers. Okay… let’s hear it. … comments welcome.