Law in Contemporary Society

The Path Much Traveled

-- By JonathanBrice - 16 Feb 2012

The Firm as a Vehicle for Self-Fulfillment

To me, success can easily be defined by the phrase: “I want to do good, and I want to do well.”

Of the two key terms above, “well” is more easily defined. Though subjective, there remains a discrete congruence of definitions that can be assigned to the word “well”; for the purposes of this paper, doing “well” will be defined as being in the top 1% of earners in the U.S., approximately $350K/year.

As compared to “well”, “good” is a more elusive term. Not only is “good” variable from person to person, it also tends to change over time, even in the psyche of an individual. Nevertheless, to me, good has a very static and specific meaning, grounded in my youth. To me, doing “good” involves bringing about positive (dramatic) change in Haiti…that, and only that. Although a very narrow interpretation of the word, it is the only one that I choose to acknowledge.

Given my goal of doing “good” and doing “well”, is the firm path right for me? I think so.

Tackling the goal of doing “well” is easier, mainly because the concept has been monetized for the purposes of this paper. In all, the firm path would greatly contribute to my goal of doing “well”. The starting associate N.Y. salary of $160K places me comfortably in the ever-shrinking top 5% of U.S. earners. Nevertheless, the ability to contribute to my goal of doing “well” is not something unique to firms. Private practice easily achieves the same ends, while allowing for a far better lifestyle…I’d just have to figure out my nut. Therefore, while the firm path would contribute to my goal of doing “well”, the financial rewards of the path is not a dispositive factor in my decision of which path to follow.

As opposed to doing “well”, charting a path to doing “good” proves a bit more difficult and uncertain. In order to chart a path to doing "good", I will start from the destination. In my opinion, the best path to bringing about positive (dramatic) change in Haiti is through economic development. This belief is based principally on my economics studies as an undergrad, and my academic and personal experiences in Singapore (A country that went from third world to first world over the course of a lifetime). While there are a plethora of differences between Haiti and Singapore, the two countries are similar in one key respect…they both lack (lacked in the case of Singapore) a globally desirable natural resources (Singapore was able to build a natural resource in the form of a educated work force). Given this dearth of resources, Foreign Direct Investment must drive economic development.

At first blush, it’s hard to see how a firm would directly contribute to my goal of doing “good”; no firm is going to invest in Haiti. In the end, a firm’s truly invaluable contribution to my doing “good” is its name. Being able to put a prestigious NY firm on my resume would serve as a great indicator of my work ethic, and would easily build trust and confidence in my abilities; after all, “if I could survive a major NY law firm, what can’t I survive?” (Death). (Step 1: Screen out for a prestigious NY firm; do what I need to do to get there)

As a name is the only unique thing a firm could offer me (and it would have to be a truly prestigious firm at that), such an environment seems somewhat antithetical to my goal of doing “good”. Agreeably, spending my entire career at a firm would contribute very little, if any, to my goal of doing “good”; for that reason, I plan on jumping ship.

As opposed to some of my other options upon graduation, whether that be consulting or a solo practice, a firm would offer great exit opportunities to the client side. Despite the fact that I have enjoyed law school thus far, I am not "in love" with the law (this might have turned out to be a good thing, as it turns out that the law might be the weakest form of social control). Unlike most(?) of my peers, I don’t have an incessant desire to have an impact through the law. In a sense, I’m sort of like the bad man, I had a goal, and as it stood during my senior year, law school was the best way to get there.

Given the exit opportunities presented by some firms, my goal is to transition (as quickly as possible) to a company where I can thrive financially, building a network of friends and colleagues that I trust, and most importantly that trust me. (Step 2: Make sure the firm has the type of clients I want to work for; Step 3: Make sure I get on any business matter that the firm works on for that client, learning their business in and out; Step 4: Keep my eyes open for the exit)

Upon building a successful network, I would then transition to Haiti, preferably starting my own PE firm. Using my expertise and connections (both political and financial), I would invest in the country, hopefully doing “good” and “well”. (Step 5: Take the exit when it comes, and make the best of it; Step 6: Get off the highway and start building).

I will be the first to recognize that this is a somewhat oversimplified representation of what will no doubt be a very arduous process. Nevertheless, I sincerely believe that the general framework can and will work.


Webs Webs

r7 - 22 Jan 2013 - 20:10:33 - IanSullivan
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