A Mormon Among the Yuppies

March 30, 2004 | 31 comments
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Confession time. I am a lawyer. It is now official. Last week the Board of Bar Examiners sent me my certificate stating that I am duly liscensed and qualified to practice as an attorney and counselor at law before the courts of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Yesterday, I recieved in the mail an offer from the D.C. office of an international law firm, which I will probably accept. What this means is that I am on the threshold of the land of the Yuppies.

Actually, talking of thresholds is proably a bit late at this point. It is safe to say that I have been living amongst the Yuppies at least since I entered law school, and perhaps since I graduated from college. (I worked for a year and half in politics before law school, and political types aren’t quite yuppies but they share some of the same habits.)

In many ways living among the Yuppies can be a lot of fun. They are smart, articulate, and often interesting. (They are also frequently shallow and dull. It takes all kinds.) They tend to live well. Playing golf on a really nice golf course is a lot of fun, and I went to a very nice restuarant for lunch during a recent job interview in D.C. (Yes, Kaimi and the rest of you New York snobs, there are good restuarants in D.C.)

On the otherhand, there is something alienating and disturbing about spending your life around a group of people, the majority of whom regard work and career as their primary source of identity and meaning in life. Obviously, the demands of working in a Yuppie world can be harsh and alienating, but this is not what I am talking about. Rather, I am referring to the alienation that comes from realizing that you simply lack the commitment and zeal of your peers. You are, in a sense, an agnostic in a land of true believers.

It is possible to overstate this of course. We are often more alike then we would like to believe. Still, I can’t help but feelingly irreducibly foreign in the world that I spend so much of my time in.

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31 Responses to A Mormon Among the Yuppies

  1. Steve Evans on March 30, 2004 at 12:01 pm

    Quit yer moanin’, man! You’re entering a period of personal wealth and prosperity. As for feeling alienated, join the club. Everyone in American feels alienated.

    As for there being good restaurants in D.C., I’ll believe it when I see it. Maybe downtown — but when you go home to your suburban paradise, have fun at T.G.I. Friday’s.

  2. Thom on March 30, 2004 at 12:04 pm

    Nate,

    Welcome to the greater DC metropolitan area. If you have an interest in living in the Northern Virgia area, I’d be happy to share what I have learned in my time here. There are very strong pros and cons. More if you are interested.

  3. Kaimi on March 30, 2004 at 12:05 pm

    Nate,

    There are very few true yuppies in yuppie-land. They know who they are. But most of us are strangers in a strange land.

    And good restaurants are overrated.

  4. Steve Evans on March 30, 2004 at 12:09 pm

    OK, so I’m feeling a little grumpy. I went through a similar angst when I became a lawyer. But eventually you’ll get over it, and realize that life hasn’t changed as much as it seems.

    oh, and I’ll start spellchecking my comments.

  5. Kaimi on March 30, 2004 at 12:12 pm

    Nate,

    I look forward to reading about your adventures. Perhaps you could title it, “A Utah Mormon in King Yuppie’s Golf Course.”

  6. Russell Arben Fox on March 30, 2004 at 12:23 pm

    Geez, another lawyer!?! Off to the blue states with you! (Yes, northern Virginia is blue; red populism doesn’t begin until you’ve crossed the Rappahanock River.)

    Seriously, congratulations; D.C. is one of the great cities of the world, and the metro area is a fine place to raise kids (Megan and Caitlyn were born in Alexandria). Hope we can stop by and see you sometime.

  7. cooper on March 30, 2004 at 12:24 pm

    Nate congratulations on completing the course! I am sure Michelle could enlighten all you guys on the angst thing.

    The quote “To thine own self be true” has a definite place here. Amidst the yuppies and yuffies are those with conscience. Stay close to yours and you can’t go wrong.

  8. Nate Oman on March 30, 2004 at 12:41 pm

    “when you go home to your suburban paradise, have fun at T.G.I. Friday’s.”

    Beg to differ. There are great ethnic restuarants in Arlington, especially around Clarendon and Annandale has an entire Korean area with some pretty good restuarants. As I recall there are some other odd ethnic enclaves in Northern Virginia.

    In the District you have the shi-shi places around K Street north of the Whitehouse as well as Georgetown and Adams-Morgan.

  9. Steve Evans on March 30, 2004 at 12:47 pm

    Any of those ethnic enclaves open after 8?

    Look, I’ve been in the District, I know what’s up. There’s some OK food out there. But by and large, the whole metroplex shuts down at night, and in the suburbs, you’re mostly talking wasteland. There are pockets of hope here and there, but you won’t fool anybody into thinking that Arlington is the next Lower East Side.

    Back to bigger issues: are you going to get some nicer clothes, now that you have some coin?

  10. Nate Oman on March 30, 2004 at 1:01 pm

    My claim was about restuarants not about night life.

    As for clothing, I am planning on laying in a store of black turtlenecks for when I go to NYC.

  11. lyle on March 30, 2004 at 1:02 pm

    congratz Nate. I’m still working on sending in a bar exam application & hoping I’m still around to take it (apparently the Bar feels it can discriminate against soldiers called to active duty who would prefer to take the Bar in Baghdad).

    However, re: restaurants & clothes. How much do these items cost us? If you live a “yuppie” lifestyle, eat out alot, buy nice clothes, etc. then the increased costs from this lifestyle only prevent new professionals from getting out of debt quicker. Just a thought, but growing up…my Mom did the cooking and alot of clothes making (which I’ll admit…I hated the clothes). This kept the household budget down.

    I’m no Matt Evans, I’m sure he could re-articulate my points above much better re: how living frugally and not of the world will help us magnify our talents/build Zion better.

  12. Steve Evans on March 30, 2004 at 1:16 pm

    Nate – hope you also pick up a beret to match them turtlenecks.

    I guess as an attorney in biglaw, I don’t distinguish between restaurants and nightlife — if it’s not open late enough for me to go after work, it might as well not be open at all.

  13. Susan on March 30, 2004 at 1:23 pm

    Is everyone on this blog a lawyer?

  14. Kaimi on March 30, 2004 at 1:26 pm

    Susan,

    We were originally an all-lawyer production. Somehow, a few non-lawyers have crept in. But we’re keeping an eye on them. Besides, at least one of the non-lawyers is raising up future lawyers.

    See http://www.timesandseasons.org/archives/000481.html

  15. Russell Arben Fox on March 30, 2004 at 1:26 pm

    I’m not. Jim isn’t. Kristine isn’t. But keep it quiet; we’re the resistance.

  16. Nate Oman on March 30, 2004 at 1:26 pm

    Your not! Niether are Julie or Kristine.

    Jim & Russell secretly wish they were. Philosophy is just sublimation. ;->

  17. Susan on March 30, 2004 at 1:42 pm

    I can see why you all like to argue so much. I like to tell stories.

  18. brayden on March 30, 2004 at 1:50 pm

    Congrats Nate! Once you’ve settled into yuppy life, perhaps you will begin to feel the temptatious calls of academic life. We embrace a very different brand of zealotry.

  19. Renee on March 30, 2004 at 1:53 pm

    I guess it depends on if you want the zeal and commitment your peers have for that lifestyle. Surely you have zeal towards other things. There’s several LDS lawyers (and doctors) that I know of who do not participate in that lifestyle. It’s refreshing when someone’s lifestyle and home do not announce the size of their paycheck.

  20. Jim F. on March 30, 2004 at 2:41 pm

    Nate, my sons (an MBA and a MAcc) tell me that I secretly wish I were in business, but my response to them is the same as it is to you: no thanks. I don’t make the big bucks that lawyers and business execs make, but I do all right and I have a lot of perqs that they don’t have: trips to Italy and France, time to read books, working at home on my schedule. I’ll stick to professoring. (On the other hand, somehow all of the lawyers on this list seem to have more time for blogging than anyone else. Perhaps I’m wrong about how much time they spend working!)

  21. Gary Cooper on March 30, 2004 at 2:42 pm

    Congrats, Nate!

  22. Kaimi on March 30, 2004 at 2:52 pm

    I don’t know how many of us lawyers can be considered “real” lawyers.

    Nate and I are both professed law geeks who are lawyering as a way to make ends meet until we get a real job. (Say, teaching). Gordon is ahead of us in that department — a law geek who gets paid to be a law geek. And let’s just say I have my suspicions that Greg may also be a law geek in lawyer’s clothing.

    That leaves Matt and Adam, one of whom is an entrepreneur in lawyer’s garb, the other of whom I’m not sure about.

  23. Adam Greenwood on March 30, 2004 at 3:26 pm

    I have to admit, Kaimi, that you just made my day. You timed ‘the other I’m not sure about’ exquisitely.

  24. Ethesis on March 31, 2004 at 1:04 am

    Nate,

    Well, you make a good point when you discuss the sense of alienation that comes from taking career choices or being engaged in your career when you are not as focused on advancement as other people.

    I’m 48 and a lawyer. True, I woke up one day and was ten-twelve years older than I recalled, with a huge hole in my life, but through much of my career (including now) I’ve made decisions that resulted in more time with family, less focus on the kinds of professional advancement that are endemic to law.

    I admit to regrets from time to time. When I was in the middle of burying children and only had one left, I began to regret focusing on children instead of my career, thinking that if I had focused more on my law practice and less on pro bono and my kids I’d at least have something left.

    Now, there are times when working in a staff counsel office for Travelers I meet people who wonder why I left the downtown firm I was a partner in, or why I haven’t made a lateral move out of the office I’m in. Is it really that important to have a 40 hour work week and Saturdays and Sundays off? If I stay where I’m at I’ll never be better than b.v. rated (where I got stuck about twelve years ago), I’ll never break into the real money as a lawyer.

    On the other hand, my work lets me have some fun. 6-7 trials a year, about 12-14 summary dispositions every year (I get a lot of summary judgments, it is kind of a hobby). I’m trying to think what to think about next. But I’m not that career oriented.

    Even worse, I wish my boss well and don’t want his job or an equivalent one because I don’t want the travel and extra hours. Am I making a mistake?

    Did I make a mistake when I turned down some requests to interview with a few law schools to teach ADR in order to accommodate family needs? Especially now that the field has turned around and those chances will not come again, have I resigned myself to a dead end in terms of making any significant mark in the world or being more than just one more cog? Is my life basically over as far as becoming something or in doing something I loved (teaching) rather than something I merely like a lot (I’m probably not redeemable as I like litigation)?

    Reading your post brought a lot of thoughts I’ve had recently, between a number of problems friends have had and the reflections I have on my own life from Christmas to Easter of every year. A sense of alienation is really a part of life for many.

    Interesting thoughts you’ve posted, made me think.

    Stephen M
    A litigator in Plano, Texas
    http://adrr.com/ (ADR)
    http://adrr.com/living/ (about my girls)
    http://adrr.com/living/e01.htm (ethesis)

  25. Adam Greenwood on March 31, 2004 at 11:21 am

    I admire you, Ethesis. I’m going back home to Albuquerque so I can have a decent life with my own and my extended family, but I see what other people are accomplishing and I keep feeling like I’m wasting myself.

  26. Bob Caswell on March 31, 2004 at 11:57 am

    “a way to make ends meet until we get a real job”

    Kaimi,

    Can I have your “fake” six figure job when you find your “real” one?

  27. lyle on March 31, 2004 at 12:11 pm

    Adam/Stephen:

    You are making the biggest impact by staying home and making a difference in your own family & community. While this can be done anywhere…the focus on your immediate environment; and not trying to influence “society” or “culture” or “legal theory” or whatever…makes a difference.

    IMO

    p.s.
    Which isn’t to say that Kaimi/Nate, et al. and others are chump change…I’m just focusing on y’all; and they are focusing on their families & communities…but in a slightly broader sense.

  28. Cath on April 1, 2004 at 5:46 am

    I’m a lawyer too! But I’ve never practiced, just been a law clerk for a year. Now I work for the government and use my legal background for good (I hope) instead of evil (well, maybe not evil…I clerked for two months with some nice plaintiffs’ lawyers who occasionally drifted into the realm of lunacy with some of their cases…I’ll be nice and say “frivolous arguments resulting in great cost to defendants” rather than “evil”). I’ve been finding this blog quite congenial company, and now I know why. Lawyers always seem to be very loquacious with other lawyers.

  29. Cath on April 1, 2004 at 5:46 am

    I’m a lawyer too! But I’ve never practiced, just been a law clerk for a year. Now I work for the government and use my legal background for good (I hope) instead of evil (well, maybe not evil…I clerked for two months with some nice plaintiffs’ lawyers who occasionally drifted into the realm of lunacy with some of their cases…I’ll be nice and say “frivolous arguments resulting in great cost to defendants” rather than “evil”). I’ve been finding this blog quite congenial company, and now I know why. Lawyers tend to be very loquacious with other lawyers.

  30. Ethesis (Stephen M) on April 1, 2004 at 9:09 pm

    Well, it can be down right amazing what some lawyers will think of …. .

    Right now I’ve got a case involving a guy break dancing on top of a truck who sued the owner of the truck next to him for not being there (it had pulled out) when he later fell from the top of the truck he was on. No permission, no one knew he was up there.

    … and yes, motion for summary judgment scheduled for later this month.

  31. lyle on April 1, 2004 at 9:23 pm

    Hey Cath! I resemble that remark! :)
    And yes…SCOTUS heard oral arguments on the ATCA on Tuesday. [nerves wracked as he waits for his realm of lunacy international human rights practice to either live or die...]