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Legal blogger quits big firm game

Legal blogger quits big firm game

AFTER MONTHS entertaining blog-readers across the globe on the often-gruesome details of what it is really like to work in a law firm, the mysterious online lawyer known as Opinionistas has…

AFTER MONTHS entertaining blog-readers across the globe on the often-gruesome details of what it is really like to work in a law firm, the mysterious online lawyer known as Opinionistas has resigned from her role as associate.

For the past 10 months, the 27-year-old blogger has typed up musings about what she sees as the big firm ills. She has discussed the daily goings on of lawyers, partners, associates and secretaries within various big firms in New York City’s own Manhattan.

A virtual day-in-the-life of a big law firm, the blog www.opinionistas.com has offered an insight into one lawyer’s perception of what lawyers do. “The natives are restless. Associates are wandering the semi-deserted halls, dodging the partners that haven’t jetted off on vacation, hiding in our offices cloaked in sweaters to fight off summer colds in the subzero air conditioning, and frittering away the hours staring into space until it’s acceptably late enough to sneak out of the office.

“I’ve talked to at least four associates at various firms in the past week that share my constant unease, it’s like we’re all functioning in a state of mild depression. I walk into the office and face the associate Dawn of the Dead. I’m hardly immune myself — I’ll sit down and stare wildly at a paragraph of case law for 20 minutes, glance up and realise I’ve neither read nor registered a single word,” she wrote in August last year.

But now, after 10 months offering an insight for those outside the legal world, and some camaraderie for those inside, Opinionistas has now resigned from her Manhattan law firm. “At the end of the calendar year, ten months and nearly one million hits since the blog’s inception, I resigned from my job in order to avoid scandal and prevent any potential embarrasment (sic) to my co-workers,” the blogger, who says her name is Melissa Lafsky, told fellow bloggers.

Since then, she said, response from readers has been flowing in; including considerable vitriol, which she said has also come from within the legal profession. “You’re fucking pathetic. You didn’t go to a top 5 law school or even a top 5 college, and you were hardly an associate at a top 10 firm. Shut up and go back to your daddy, I’m sure he’ll dole out enough to keep you comfortably sucking up resources,” one reader wrote.

Opinionistas had been anonymous for 10 months, but has recently “come clean” with her identity, now that she longer works within a law firm. “I’m a 27-year-old attorney living in downtown Manhattan. I grew up in the D.C. Metropolitan area, got a B.A. from Dartmouth College in 2000 and received my J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law in 2004. After leaping between several law firms in Manhattan, I began a blog in March of 2005 discussing my various experiences as a law firm paralegal, summer associate and junior attorney,” she said.

In an article about legal blogs or blawgs last week, The Australian Financial Review highlighted the dangers of the identities of the authors of legal blogs becoming known. It was only until after Opinionistas resigned from her job as associate that she felt she could reveal her real identity. In a case of taking the moral highground, she has not yet revealed the names of any firms she “uncovered” in her blogs.

Bloggers usually revel in their anonymity but, as Opinionistas became more popular, she decided to reveal her identity, give up the lifestyle she had be dissecting, and is now making plans to write a novel. Lawyers Weekly is only aware of a small number of Australian legal blogs, including lawfont.com and james.observationdeck.org, but the concept has taken off in the United States and United Kingdom, where anonymous lawyers, associates and even partners vent their frustrations and real views under their secret blog identities.

Musings vary from dating in New York City to what it is like to sit in one’s office day after day. She reflects on why things are the way they are within firms, examining “universally accepted doctrines”, for example. On one occasion, she wonders at “face time” in firms. This doctrine is “worshipped by all associates with mute recognition”.

“Denial of its existence is the single greatest fib told during that subsidized gong show that is 2L recruiting. Picture the well-scrubbed, eager young law student perched erect on his or her chair during the interview lunch, nodding attentively as a slightly anemic (sic) associate delivers the following oration, while sucking down as many Diet Cokes as the allotted firm lunch budget will allow: ‘The great thing is, there’s really no face time here. As long as you bill your hours and get your work done, no one cares when you’re in the office. You can leave at 5 to go to the doctor and no one bats an eye. It’s great’,” she writes.

But her advice to young lawyers is: “Don’t be a dunce”. “Of course face time is required here, as it is in every large law firm in this country. The partners look at you and see only walking dollar signs — since the skyrocket of associate salaries in the ‘90s, they harbor nothing but resentment for the ridiculous amount in paychecks and bonuses they have to shovel in our direction, all in the name of staying competitive in the market.”

Partners want “to see your ass cheeks rubber cemented to your desk chair, your eyes locked in a tractor beam to your computer screen, each and every time they happen to stroll past your office”, she observes.

This week, Lawyers Weekly unveils some Australian and international legal blogs for your perusal. See www.lawyersweekly.com.au and click on the Blog link for a full list.

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