What We Lose in the Chase for the Almighty Dollar

Author:Ian Hu
Date:June 07, 2019

My generation, filled with existential angst, suffered in our youth the conceit that we would not sell out as those before us did. If Kurt Cobain was the hero of our time, it was because he was authentic to the end, true to his music but not the business. And for those of us who stumbled into this profession, I ask, how many of us wrote a law school admissions essay filled with lofty ambitions to better the world, and of those, how many are left living true to those ambitions? I have seen, no, even worse, convinced, classmates and colleagues to abandon their principles in the pursuit of the almighty dollar. There once stood before a friend the choice, on the one hand, to pursue a career in law clearly aligned with the public good and the proper nourishing of one’s soul, and, on the other hand, to rise to the upper economic echelons of the profession. I gave poor counsel, my excuse my youth, saying: one could always turn around if the path to the gilded Mount Olympus was found wanting. And now more than a decade later, the friend stands indeed in a Brioni suit, but finds the path forward ever so narrow and bejeweled, while turning backwards, ever so peaceful and plain, ever more painful.

In a private practice the merry go round of young lawyers, best nurtured from years one through seven, continues unabated. The young first- to third- year lawyer enters ever so brightly with the motivation of a meteor falling into a black hole, a gravity filled with accelerating excitement and mystery. As the young lawyer ages out in year seven, or thereabouts, the abyss looking ever darker, the firm whips the lawyer out, bored and cynical, a welcome long worn out. The price to keep the older lawyer is more than the price of the younger; and could not the same work be done, quality be damned, in the name of profit, the almighty dollar? And so the firm turns its eye brightly on another young lawyer to replace the elder, and like a hopeless romantic, runs through relationships one after the other, until, perhaps, true love be found and partnership be attained. Is it any wonder, then, that firms stall out, that angst permeates the profession, that relationships break with unforgettable pain, and cynicism abides, nay, is cultivated?

More than any other profession we adapt slowly to the vicissitudes surrounding us. While the world makes decisions by swiping...

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