Young Associates in Trouble

Large law firms have reputations as being tough places to work, and the larger the firm, the tougher the firm. Yet, notwithstanding the grueling hours and the shrinking prospects of partnership, these firms perennially attract a large proportion of the nation’s top law school graduates. These young lawyers could go anywhere but choose to work at large firms. Why do they do so if law firms are as inhospitable as their reputations suggest? Two recent novels about the lives of young associates in large, prestigious law firms suggest that such a rational calculation misapprehends the costs. Law professor Kermit Roosevelt’s In the Shadow of the Law and novelist Nick Laird’s Utterly Monkey make the case against practicing law in capacious office buildings at the center of large, interesting cities. Both novels star young associates in trouble-associates who dislike their jobs, disagree with their clients, and who rarely get home at a decent hour. As did John Grisham’s The Firm and Cameron Stracher’s Double Billing, these novels suggest that the best course for the young lawyer is to avoid practicing law at a big law firm at all costs.