I friend of mine mentioned that he was concerned about the stress of the law firm getting to me. And I suppose that in the wake of my recent health issues it is a fair concern. Of course, I like what I'm doing and immediately tried to qualify the stress I'm under as something that will no longer exist when I'm a real associate at a firm, should I choose to become one.
The things that I find most stressful as a summer associate are (in no particular order):
1. Being held to a 40-hour work week instead of a "project-is-finished" work schedule.
2. Sitting at my desk and doing nothing in order to fulfill #1 when I have finished my projects and am waiting for feedback or more work.
3. Not being empowered to make decisions about my own time management when the people who are empowered are generally too busy to do so.
4. The fact that, no matter how they try to hide it, it really is a long-as-hell interview.
5. The fact that social events are a requirement, again, regardless of how they try to hide it.
If you look at those complaints, they are pretty minor. In fact, they most likely comprise a shorter list than the one I would have come up with at my previous position in the real world where I did have some power to make decisions and manage my own time. The hilarious fact is that being a summer associate is not any more stressful than any other situation I've been in, I've just been focusing on things I dislike. Every day that I could have taken my work home but instead had to sit in the office and work for face time, I have made a point of thinking about how much I'd rather work at home and how stupid it was that I had to stay. Of course, I stayed anyways because that is what I'm supposed to do. So, basically, I'd just waste a few minutes of each "unnecessary" hour in the office being annoyed. I'd look at the real associates and seeth with jealousy of their freedom. Of course, it doesn't help that I'm roughly the same as the younger associates in terms of age and professional experience (many of them have significantly less experience than me).
But, I am happy to report that as of this weekend, I realize just how dumb I was being. I really wanted this job. I'm very lucky to have it (who gets a summer associate position before they go to law school?). In order to have this job, I had to give up the ability to decide the exact schedule of my work, and the rewards of being efficient. I did it unknowingly, but I'm still lucky to have this job and I still like it. The grass on the associate side of the fence is greener, but that's a good thing. I'd rather put up with things that annoy me for 3 summers than for the rest of my life.
And as for the social events and the long interview. Those things I did know about ahead of time. I did sign up for them. And really, they are true of just about any job in the world that I would take, even if the other jobs are better at pretending. It's not like working as a contractor, consultant, or even full-time employee is really any different than a very long interview. And, it's also not like beers with the boss is ever actually an optional event.