Ex-Associate, Now a Journalist, Tells of Cravath ‘Sweat Shop’
Lawyer-turned-investigative journalist Gerald Posner says he always wanted to be a lawyer, but life as an associate at Cravath, Swaine & Moore soured him on BigLaw.
Posner spoke to Bitter Lawyer about his Cravath experience. It was a “sweat shop with a capital ‘S,’ ” he said. “I billed over 3,300 hours the first year, and I was not the highest biller in the firm. You had no life but the firm. The partners loved their practice, but that’s the only way you can stay at a place like that. Divorce was almost viewed as though an associate had made the decision to stay with the firm rather than have a personal life.”
Posner told Bitter Lawyer he became an investigative journalist “by accident.” While representing twins held in a Nazi concentration camp, he became an expert on Josef Mengele, known as the Angel of Death for human experiments he performed. Posner approached a publisher, hoping to parlay his knowledge into a book, and got the go-ahead. He enjoyed writing so much that he never went back to law practice.
Posner says his legal background gives him an edge as a reporter. “The major thing is that I’m not afraid of documents, after getting used to them in the antitrust litigation against IBM while at Cravath,” he told the blog. “So when I approached the JFK assassination, reporters would say there are tens and tens of thousands of pages of docs. And I’d think, ‘So?’ Also, nonlawyers tend to be more impressed with a legal degree than they should—it helps open up doors.”
Hat tip to Legal Blog Watch.