What would you take not to work for a year? $100,000? $60,000? $25,000?
Elizabeth Wurtzel, author of Pozac Nation and Yale Law gradudate, has an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal expressing a certain level of disbelief (tempered by her understanding of the mind of the law student) that associates who recently joined the whitest of the white-shoe firms, Cravath, turned down deferring their start date a year in exchange for $80,000.
Associates who have offers for next year, she noted, face a slightly reduced money-for-no-work offer of $65,000.
Wurtzel is pretty tough on those who don’t take the money and run. “These top-notch law grads, brilliant and bright as the Rockefeller centre Christmas tree when all the lights are turned on, may actually be idiots who lack imagination underneath it all. Maybe they just don’t have enough vision to know what to do with $80,000 worth of free time,” she wrote.
Wurtzel does ignore a few considerations these grads might have. First, there is a serious lack of definite employment at the end of the year off. Second, in the climate of firm firings being not at all uncommon, it’s easier to stay someplace once you’ve already been working for a year. Third, the top-notch grads who work at Cravath often come with top-notch $100,000-plus debt, and they may be uncomfortable risking not being able to pay it off. Fourth, there’s the pressure of not looking totally lazy after already being in school for an extra three years (though this one should weigh much less than the other three reasons).
That said, we see Wurtzel’s point, and given the option we probably would have realised how a year of travel or volunteering or writing would have impacted our life in a completely positive way…in other words, we like to think we would have told Cravath we’d see them in late 2010.
While some Cravath first-years may have been hesitant, two Skadden associates are regularly showing us all how it’s done.
In April, The New York Times profiled mid-level Skadden associate Heather Eisenlord, who took Skadden’s offer to take $80,000 and a year off. Along with another on-break associate, Eisenlord has been travelling the world — and blogging about it — since July.
The latest updates discussing rock climbing in Vang Vieng and leisurely walks in Luang Prabang (both in Laos) are enough to make a Cravath associate (and, well, everyone else) reconsider their lifestyle choice.
Eisenlord told the New York Times she had every intention of returning to Skadden. We can’t wait to hear if the fluorescent lights and all-nighters seem acceptable after spa treatments on the South African coast.
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