A spotter’s guide to the men and women of finance.
Little basil fotherington-tomas before he is turned.
Every now and then an anguished howl will yammer across LinkedIn signalscape as some well-meaning thought leader or other — sometimes, an anonymous self-organising autonomous collective of them — lights a touchpaper to the apparently grisly working conditions for young commercial lawyers.
It sets off a predictable dumpster fire, which woofs, explodes and quickly burns out as people move on, forget, come to their senses, or are distracted by the next bauble, or whatever motivates the onworld herd these days. But until then it plays out like so:
“It cannot be right,” they wail, “in our enlightened times, to torture out younglings so. Fourteen hours a day! Sometimes more! They are not up to it. It will crush them. We must be humane.”
There will then follow a long and tiring diatribe about the fragile psychiatric disposition of the upcoming generation. It will culminate in robust accord that we must all, at every opportunity, speak loudly and tediously about our own vulnerabilities, thereby ending forever the stigma of airing our personal hang-ups.
Look, kids: keeping schtum about your frailties isn’t a travesty. It’s common sense. It’s personal branding 101. It is what people do.
The JC will spare his usual Nietzschean quotes about military life, apposite though they are: suffice to say, there is nothing quite like a good “shoeing” at the bottom of a ruck every now and then to stouten a young attorney’s fibre. It builds a kind of resilience that whingeing about mental health on LinkedIn never will.
In any case, a better question is this: what sort of person regards any part of the big law military industrial complex — even its front-line of callow inductees — with even a twinge of sympathy? The same sorts who would cuddle polar bears, that’s who. They don’t last long.
For, really: what do you think happens to those cute little Kirkland & Ellis cubs when they grow up? Have you not seen Stranger Things?
The Harvard Law School careers fair is hardly the Russian front. These “poor little lambs” we hold in contemplation were not conscripted, press-ganged, nor frog-marched at gunpoint down to the Latham & Watkins barracks.
To the contrary, these little blighters spent years climbing over each other specifically to get to where they now are. This was their one goal: their guiding, blinding light. These people are trained killers. They eat the weak. They are motivated to this penury. They want it. Five years of trench warfare is part of their plan. They understand, the way LinkedIn grandees seem to have forgotten, that what does not kill you makes you stronger. Whoops: we promised to spare the Nietzsche quotes, didn’t we.
And remember, these babes-in-arms — armed babies, at any rate — are charged out, from the moment they trade their joss-sticks & hacky-sacks for power-suits, at five hundred bucks an hour. And they know nothing. Their work is then triple-checked by some slightly older cherub who is paid nine hundred bucks an hour and knows barely any more. You are paying an effective rate of sixteen hundred bucks an hour for a kid you’d think twice about letting walk your dog.
It was, as we old lags are prone to say, ever thus. Our liberal metropolitan mores may wax and wane, but “ever thus” will it remain. The career path of commercial lawyering is not, never has been, and never will be, for milksops. Those who have clambered over enough scuffling bodies to earn a big law training contract has, we presume, a deliberative faculty, and options, even in a tight labour market.
If you don’t like hard work, young sir or madam, find something else to do. You’ll cope.