Line In the BigLaw Sand

Line In the Sand at the Alamo, San Antonio, Texas

Line In the Sand at the Alamo–San Antonio, Texas

Line in the sand is a metaphor that means, “I’m not going past this point, mothertrucker.” Wikipedia has the origin of the phrase perhaps going back to biblical times. Being a Texas transplant, I’m more familiar with its usage at the Alamo. The story goes that Colonel William Travis and his troops were completely surrounded by the Mexican army (led by General Santa Anna), when Santa Anna sent a messenger to Travis demanding surrender (or alternatively, death). Travis called his troops together and, proclaiming that he would rather die than surrender, pulled his battle sword and drew a line in the dirt. Travis asked for volunteers to cross over the line and join him in battle—and certain death. All but one of the defenders crossed the line to join Travis, including Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett. Travis then let Santa Anna know of his decision by shooting a cannon in his direction. Santa Anna sent a musical reply in the form of El Degüello (translation “throat cutting” or “no quarter”). (If Santa Anna’s men actually played El Degüello as the battle ensued, it probably sounded more like this.)

All of this is an interesting, albeit dramatic, introduction to the current state of my employment at BigLaw. When we left off, BigLawBoss was becoming more firmly entrenched in an extramarital affair, and I was brainstorming about ways to use this information to my advantage. Knowledge is power, as they say. Since that time, BigLawBoss has taken to disappearing from the office approximately 1.5 days per week. For example, he’ll leave on Tuesday at noon, and reappear on Thursday morning. Sometimes he provides excuses (meetings with contractors, dying friends, visits to elderly father, dying or dead distant or fictional relatives, doctor’s appointments). The staff and his close colleagues (including me) respond with a wink and a nod.

Meanwhile, BigLawBoss suggested I might want to assist a partner in another office (we’ll call him BigLawAholic) on a new case. BigLawAholic’s massive new matter involves a particularly demanding client, and he needs help. Help, as it turns out, has meant fourteen to sixteen-hour days, with (mercifully) breaks for sleeping. During my initial ten days on the case, I didn’t have time for grooming, or driving to the office, or cooking.  I didn’t leave my home. I woke up, turned on my computer and, continuing until bleary-eyed and brain-dead, I fell into bed. During this period, I had visions of quitting. I had visions of getting hit by a bus, followed by a peaceful recovery in the hospital. I had visions of offing myself. (But I decided quitting was a better alternative.) During the apex of this ordeal, BigLawBoss was Hiking the Appalachian Trail.

We finished the project last Friday evening and I spent the weekend recovering. While I was not hit by a bus, I felt like I had been. It was a beautiful weekend last weekend, and I was too exhausted to get out and enjoy it. I hunkered down and binge-watched season five of the Walking Dead. (How’s that for symbolism?) After a brief respite on Saturday, BigLawAholic began blowing up my inbox again on Sunday morning. On Monday, I played catch-up on some other cases. BigLawAholic was not pleased to find my attentions diverted thusly, and he proceeded to chew me out. On Tuesday, I plopped down in a chair in BigLawBoss’s office. I told him how the little project with BigLawAholic had turned out. I told him BigLawAholic had me swirling around in his BigLawBlackHole. I told him I was too old for this shit. I told him,

Not to be dramatic, but if this is my new normal, I’ll leave.

BigLawBoss got the message and called BigLawAholic to intervene. Whereupon, BigLawBoss found himself swirling dangerously close to also being sucked into BigLawBlackHole. You see, BigLawAholic needs more help, more manpower to service demanding client. And so he attempted to enlist BigLawBoss to work on BigLawBlackHole. BigLawBoss declined. How could he agree to getting sucked into BigLawBlackHole? It would impede his ability to disappear into the recesses of his girlfriend’s vagina for days at a time. People at the top of the pyramid would begin to notice his odd comings and goings. He would have to become accountable. And so, BigLawBoss said, “No thank you, BigLawAholic. No BigLawBlackHole for me.” I hoped that his goal of intervening on my behalf was not abandoned in his efforts to save himself.

The week proceeded relatively peacefully, and it appeared BigLawBoss’s attempt at intervention was moderately successful. I was beginning to think I’d escaped BigLawBlackHole for the weekend. (How in the hell had I started working all these weekends? Before we merged with BigLaw five years ago, I rarely worked weekends. And now, slowly and insidiously over the past five years, it has become the norm.) BigLawBoss spent the latter part of the week AWOL, and as of 6:00 p.m. Friday evening, I was free. Or so I thought. At 6:15 an email appeared in my inbox from BigLawAholic:

Big new project. We need to get started first thing in the morning. We need to get this to Demanding Client by Monday.

I was surrounded. There was no escape. It was surrender or die. And so I pulled out my sword and drew a line in the sand.

I can’t this weekend. I have committed to [do this very important thing that I cannot reschedule].

BigLawAholic said he understood. As do I. I understand I have committed BigLawSuicide. I understand my compensation, and perhaps my days, are numbered. The emails continue to fill my inbox this morning, unabated. But I will not surrender. And I imagine that I hear, in the distance, the team playing El Degüello on their BigLawBugles.

About Unconfirmed Bachelorette

Unconfirmed Bachelorette, a/k/a Ella, is a 50-something-year-old lawyer who wishes fervently she could retire from the practice of law and write full time. Never-married-childfree Ella resides in Austin, Texas with her three fluffy black rescue cats.
This entry was posted in BigLaw, Early Retirement, Texas History and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

44 Responses to Line In the BigLaw Sand

  1. franhunne4u says:

    Good on you. Sometimes you just have to draw a line. You are not a slave. You have a working contract. And you cannot work for two or three people fulltime!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. David says:

    Your new friend David here. Excellent excellent work. If you set boundaries, with all your experience, someone will give you work to do or you will find it yourself. Those who work as they requested – cannon fodder – will do so until they quit or go insane. Those who don’t, will…. Continue working as normal. Boundaries are essential for long term survival.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, New Friend David. Yes, I have gotten a bit bold. What’s the worst that could happen? They put me out of my misery? I expect BigLawBoss will protect me. Not necessarily out of loyalty, but because he makes money off of me. (But not when I’m working on someone else’s clients.) And because at this late date, after working together for over a decade, he likely does not want to go through the trouble of replacing me when he’s so close to retirement, himself. And then, of course, there’s our unspoken don’t-ask-don’t-tell pact. Yes, it benefits him to keep me placated.

      Like

  3. Ron Griffin says:

    Great post. Glad you didn’t get hit by a bus. I love the walking dead by the way.

    Like

    • Thanks, Ron. Yeah, getting hit by a bus would have been a little much. But I am reminded of the movie Office Space, where one of the laid-off worker was in the garage running the car with the door closed, decides he wants to live, backs out of the driveway, and gets creamed. He’s then the happiest man alive, because despite being a broken mess, he’s getting a big legal settlement and so is free from the cubicle.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Like the sands in a hour glass, so are the days of our lives.

    Enjoying the story from the comfort of my kitchen table.

    Like

  5. literarylydi says:

    I like the way you make your stories interesting with good description! I haven’t been on your blog for a while…are you still a bachelorette? Or is there a link you can give me about a first date/boyfriend?

    Like

  6. literarylydi says:

    I’ve just been reading some of your posts about Mack! Wow that would put me off for life! Sorry to see you’ve suffered quite a bit with deaths in the family too, sounds like this blog has kept you going through tough times xx

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Kim G says:

    Seriously, you’ve worked hard, you’re an established attorney, surely very productive and knowledgeable, and not easy to replace. As you noted in an earlier post, you should be managing and directing underlings at this stage in your career, not frantically canceling plans you’ve made for the weekend so you can put your nose to the grindstone for a Saturday all-nighter.

    Having read your blog for a bit now, I’m beginning to wonder if your firm treats women fairly. Or does it discriminate? Though I don’t know much about being a lawyer, I did retire from a similarly high-pressure profession (money management) and in that business people certainly work hard, but senior people don’t get asked on Friday night or Saturday morning to drop everything and work like a dog. Aren’t there hordes of 28-year-olds who’d be dying to make this kind of sacrifice?

    All that said, in your position, I’m not sure what I’d do. You’re so close to getting out of there, and it’d be emotionally difficult to commit to a new job with a new firm knowing you want to retire. Yet lines do need to be drawn.

    I totally wish you the best, whatever you choose.

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where we are so, so, SO glad to be out of the rat race, even if we do have less money.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kim, law firms (particularly BigLaw) absolutely do discriminate against women lawyers, and I expect that includes my firm. There has been much written on the subject, and so it’s really no secret. (I wrote about this a few months back: https://unconfirmedbachelorette.com/2015/04/27/not-in-my-lifetime/.) In my experience, women lawyers have to work much harder to prove themselves, and are given the less desirable assignments. We’re also generally paid less (which they argue is justified), and are not well represented at partnership levels. At my firm, while transparency is an issue, I would not be surprised to learn that male and female lawyer compensation is not comparable, including my own. I most certainly am not treated with the same respect.

      As for leaving, you have hit the nail on the head. I am so close to being done with it all, I don’t have the motivation to start anew elsewhere. So, I will draw those lines and soldier on through the next year or two. The worst thing that could happen is I piss them off and they put me out of my misery. But I don’t think BigLawBoss will let that happen. He doesn’t want to start over with someone new at this point, either.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Since I am counting down my last year at MegaCorp, I have completely stopped evening & weekend work, emails & drama-filled texts. Funny thing is – I don’t think anyone really notices that I only work during office hours!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I bet you’re right, Mr. Fire Station, they may not notice. I watched the movie Office Space again the other night, and when the lead character stopped showing up on weekends (and most actual working hours), he got promoted. Since partnership profits are directly tied to the hours I bill, they notice a bit more at BigLaw.

      Like

  9. ainsobriety says:

    I’m intrigued by the soap opera.
    Perhaps you should be a screen writer!

    Like

  10. Jim Mcg says:

    It will be interesting to see if you’ve committed work suicide. Maybe you’ll start a movement! Work is such a joke sometimes. We stop it on Friday night and start it again Monday morning. So where does it go in between? Well, if it needs done, it doesn’t go anywhere, just builds up until it overflows. The nine to five culture is like the Walking Dead. We should have buried it long ago and found alternatives, but it keeps staggering around, biting people.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Robert Crisp says:

    “It would impede his ability to disappear into the recesses of his girlfriend’s vagina for days at a time.” Bwa ha ha! This whole post is great. Not to live through, of course, but your rendering of it. Life is so much more important than constant work, work, work. Strong you are with the Force.

    Like

  12. riding on empty says:

    Speaking as another who briefly experienced “semi-big law” and 46 days straight with no days off and a call from a partner on CHRISTMAS MORNING demanding my presence in the office immediately (did I mention it was Christmas morning?), I get all this. BigLawAholic – I love it. Thanks for the reminder that I never want to return to “traditional legal practice!”

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Good for you for standing up for your self, especially after such a soul-sucking ordeal. And who knows — sometimes alpha dog types respect people more (especially women) when they stick up for themselves. It’s such a sad commentary on modern society that far too many people view being insanely busy as “success,” and they feel so unsure of their own value as humans that they need all of this external validation to tell that that they’re irreplaceable. Blech. But I’m glad you’re through the worst of it, and hope you had a good weekend!

    Like

    • ONL, I used to be one of those people who believed it was noble to work like dog. Thank goodness I woke up. As for sticking up for myself, my efforts seem to be paying off. He’s either respecting me for setting boundaries, or he’s decided I’m useless. Either way works for me. I’m in the midst of a blissfully peaceful weekend. The first in quite a while. I hope your are in the midst of enjoying yours!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. weenie says:

    Hello

    I saw your comment on sexhealthmoneydeath blog and thought I’d stop by.

    It’s taken several days but I have binge-read your entire blog right from the beginning…wow, it was an emotional rollercoaster for me so I can’t even imagine what it’s been like for you!

    Excellent writing, you are very talented and have gained a new fan/follower/something not so creepy! 🙂

    I wish you all the very best with your FIRE plans and look forward to continuing to read about your journey to the finish line!

    Like

    • Wow, weenie! What a kind comment. I’m quite impressed you slogged through the whole thing. That’s some serious binging. I sometimes think about deleting some of my more cringe-worthy posts, but for the sake of posterity, leave them up. Thank you so much for your generous words about my writing. It’s so uplifting to receive that kind of feedback. And now, I shall have a look around over at yours.

      Like

  15. Loved your post! I hope your “don’t ask don’t tell” strategy works for you. It didn’t for me, though of course I was only an assistant and very dispensable! I suppose you could use it as a threat but is that who you want to be?

    Like

  16. David says:

    My niece works for herself as an attorney specializing in estate law and planning. She didn’t want to do BigLaw and really didn’t want to criminal law. She worked at three other firms before striking out on her own. The first place, the boss was an idiot and a half by her description. The second place where she worked, the boss owed her six figures but she managed to get him sign a promissory note to repay the outstanding amount. He didn’t like it but she reminded him the IRS had inquired into the firm’s accounting practices. The third place, she liked it a lot but wanted to try her hand at running her own shop. She tells her two paralegals and legal secretary, end of the day is end of the day, and weekends are for enjoying.

    Like

    • Your niece sounds like one smart cookie. Running your own shop would be the way to do it. And if you do that, before you’re burned out, I expect it’s not a bad way to earn a living. The end of the day is the end of the day? Weekends are for enjoying? That almost makes me cry, it sounds so lovely. What a great boss she must be.

      Like

  17. ThumbWind says:

    Wow..and I thought BigCorp sucked. I would suggest some 911 texts to Big LawBoss at 11:30pm when BigLawBoss is AWOL from time to time just to keep his dick on its toes. (so to speak)

    Like

  18. Tahira says:

    Bravo to you, Ella!

    Like

  19. Pingback: From black holes to pits | Unconfirmed Bachelorette

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