How much do I really value prestige? Is seeking prestige a sign of low self-esteem — to validate one’s self worth? Sometimes I ask myself these questions. I really don’t know the answer. I honestly believe that I’m a year or two away from making partner. It would be nice to have all my efforts recognized by getting this promotion. I once saw a poster that said something like “success is the best revenge.” Wouldn’t that show all the naysayers, the ex-girlfriends, etc. that I’m a successful guy? Plus, it would come with a healthy boost in salary!
On the flip side, they say making partner is like winning a pie eating contest where you win more pie. I’m not so worried about that — I think partners get rewarded financially and don’t necessarily work harder than associates. They delegate a lot of work, but are also responsible for developing business. What I really worry about is the prestige version of golden handcuffs. You get addicted to the idea of being partner and the fat paycheck. You all of a sudden can’t see yourself doing anything else, unless you’re a VP or assistant GC at a Fortune 500 company. Simply stated, your identity becomes fused with your status as a partner, which I think is a mistake. I’m not just a lawyer, I’m much more than that and refuse to limit who I am.
It’s hard to weigh the pros and cons of something you don’t have and don’t know. I can only imagine what being partner is like. I can already sense the rush of power. Unfortunately, there are no role models for me to look up to. Everyone I know is such a striver, or has significant financial obligations, whether it be to creditors, mortgage companies, spouses, or children. Some folks have dropped out of the law game, but they dropped out early, certainly well before making partner. Some have disappeared and rumor is they are struggling and others have come crawling back to the practice of law.
If I do decide to retire early, maybe as a junior partner (after all I need to work another 5 years), one of the biggest worries I have is unknown expenses. There’s college expenses for kids — tuition is still going up at a healthy clip. Is this a bubble or not, who knows. There’s health costs. Still going up. Who knows how much I’ll need in 20 years? There’s real estate. Will I need a house for a family in the future? These and other expenses could delay retirement by a few years.
On a lighter note, work is getting a little better. I’m adjusting to my new role as a manager for my litigation matters.