I have to admit, in at least one aspect of work, litigation kicks corporate's butt.
(Aside for my non-lawyer readers: there are basically two flavors of lawyers--litigation and corporate. Litigators get called in when someone is suing someone. Their job is to seek and destroy the opponent. Corporate lawyers get called in when someone wants to do a deal with someone. Their job is to make the deal happen. Is it any wonder then that I'm a corporate lawyer? I'm a dealer, not a fighter.)
But there's one thing about corporate law that I hate. I hate hate hate. Like bane-of-my-existence hate. HATE!
The utter unpredictability. At any moment, at the drop of a hat, the client can call and say: GO, JUMP, NOW! And you have to pull out the trampoline, drop everything, and work like a dog until the deal is done. (Litigators, I hear, for the most part, don't have this issue. They have a court schedule, they know what's coming usually.)
A mid-level corporate associate, let's call her Betty, once told me that she had planned a romantic getaway weekend with her hubby months in advance only to have it ruined by a sudden client emergency. The reservations were unrefundable too. But that's not the worst part...
"Oh no?" you say, "What could be worse than having your unrefundable deposits and plane tickets wasted and your well-deserved and much anticipated vacation ruined to bits?"
Hang on to your hats ladies and gentlemen, because this is the REALLY perverse thing about corporate law...
She ended up NOT having to work that weekend after all!
Junior associates are expected to pre-emptorily cancel their plans on the off-chance that they are likely to be needed by the partner. Asking the partner to explicitly specify whether they will actually need you is bad form (so I've been told after I asked a partner to explicitly specify whether I would be needed for a late night once).
You're not supposed to ask. The phrase, "It never hurts to ask" does NOT apply to interchanges between junior associates and partners.
So when the partner says, "This client might need us this weekend." That's your cue to cancel the trip, sit in your office, and wait. And wait. And wait. And if the call never comes, it never comes.
Although I haven't had the same awful experience as Betty, I definitely feel the pressure on my non-work life. I'm afraid to plan things with friends. If someone is going to come visit from out of town, I'm deathly afraid that I might have to be the worst hostess ever and leave them watching tv in my home alone for days or touring the city by themselves. I never know if I'll make dinners, parties, even Christmas is not guaranteed!
Doctors can sort of sympathize since it's like being on-call. But the difference is corporate lawyers are ALWAYS on-call. It sucks. I feel like I live in a figurative 10 by 10 jail cell of life.
You never allow yourself to look forward to things too much, because you know...one buzz of that blackberry...
And you're afraid to make plans with people. People don't understand. You run the risk of being forever thought of as a jerk should you have to cancel too often on too short notice.
And so inevitably you start to make plans with the only other kind of person in the world who would understand, a fellow corporate lawyer.
A sad breed indeed.