Posted Sep 02, 2010 01:06 pm CDT
Are elite lawyers who turn down careers in BigLaw for public interest jobs a little too smug, and if so, are they entitled to their sense of entitlement?
Blogger Conor Friedersdorf of the Atlantic’s Daily Dish started the debate when he wrote about his continued astonishment at BigLaw’s wining and dining of law grads and new associates’ high-priced lifestyles. How is it, he wondered, that law grads who once existed on Ramen noodles “earnestly insist that their $165,000 salary isn’t so much when you think about it”?
But his criticism wasn’t reserved for the lifestyles of the rich and elite BigLaw associates. He also targeted public interest lawyers who turn down jobs at big firms. A lot of these grads, he said, “imagine that they are making an enormous personal sacrifice by taking government work” and exude a “palpable sense of entitlement.” In another post, he commented on better-compensated D.C. workers who “conceive of their very employment in the public sector as a favor to the taxpayer.”
Friedersdorf’s musings started a debate that is still playing out on his blog. One reader who offered a defense of smugness was a Harvard law grad who turned down offers at big law firms for a job with “Club Fed.”
“I made the right choice for me—decent hours, more substantive and interesting work and responsibility, usually on the side of good instead of evil, and my wife and I make enough in our govt jobs that we have to worry about the AMT,” the Harvard law grad wrote. “But as my friends from law school, some of whom were idiots, make partner and sprint ahead in the money chase, am I showing a sense of entitlement if I feel a tinge of envy? The self-righteousness is what gets me out the door in the morning.”