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May 23, 2009

Slackoisie-Fest: Fighting Loser-ism in the Workplace.

Listen, you creeps, you screwheads. Here is a man who would not take it anymore. A man who stood up against the scum, the dogs, the filth and the crap. Here is a man who stood up.

~ Travis Bickle, Taxi Driver (1976)

Young wankers against work. Scott Greenfield at Simple Justice rails, too often alone, against the dreaded 'Wazee: the Cliff Notes kids, scourges of the workplace, and Maynard G. Krebses with a straight-faced demented Ritalin-laced rap on the right to be barely adequate at work. This is Gen-Y. You were born after 1978. You demand--with no real bargaining power--that employers buy into "work-life balance". You want a family-life "lifestyle".

The truth: you're lazier and more incompetent than WAC?'s old Southern Ohio whiskey-swilling doped-up hound dog "Craps". But now you call yourself Super-Daddy. Or Concerned Humanist. Or Non-Selfish Sensitive New Age Person. Some trendy if wimpy U.S. employers are increasingly buying into this.

But since 1997 at Hull McGuire--the firm for which I co-write this blog, and clerked for last summer--such workers have been referred to openly as the Slackoisie, the 'Slack and (on bad days) "Looters". The firm was alone in its dismay for many years. Then other firms in the U.S. experienced the same problem. No one, it seemed, wanted to talk about it--even as higher-end clients worried increasingly about getting real value from their planners and problem solvers.

But, in Scott Greenfield, last year we finally found a talented and spirited ally. Here is a man who would not take it anymore. He is hero to the quiet legions of builders, planners, inventors and yeoman lawyers who know what problem-solving takes, and what sacrifices are demanded to get things done for clients and customers.

Ben Franklin, Tom Edison and Clarence Darrow root for Greenfield in Doers' Heaven. The Immortals do watch us. They hope that America's shameful, and ill-timed, work-life balance charade will soon die the vampire's death it deserves. Enough is enough, they think; this is not what we Yanks are all about. Get "balance" on your own time, in your own way, or through a less demanding career.

Young lawyers need to learn the tough and hard-learned art of practicing law. Older lawyers need to work hard at teaching them, and serving valued clients.

We serve. Clients and customers are "always"--and they come first. See Scott's "First, You Have To Get The Job". About 30 comments so far.


Greenfield (dated photo), Last of the Anti-Wankers.

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzb├╝hel Desk) at May 23, 2009 08:48 PM


Hey Holden, Dan mailed me to say this is your last post. I take it you're retiring at 29 from burn out :-)

Posted by: Ruthie at May 23, 2009 09:49 AM

Actually, Ms. Ruthie, I am 41, and my wife and I have two young kids. Am just now graduating from law school in California. I love the law, and I love to work--but also love working in journalism, my first career. I am headed for Paris with my family for one year for a law-journalism sort of fellowship, part of which will be in Austria. Back in the states after that. To either New York or Washington, D.C.; if the latter, I will likely go work for Hull McGuire.

I really do not buy into the work-life balance thing. It's a very naive and dangerous movement which could dumb down American productivity. Very few good firms require 2000+ hours--but the point is that making you happy is never an employer's duty. I would question the motives of people who make the time to argue that "getting-a-life" is a duty somehow shared and shouldered with someone other than the employee. Thinking like that brings entire cultures down. And I really do think that "the movement" is lead by those who need to feel better in the workplace about a lack of ambition and drive.

If you love what you do, burn-out is unlikely.

You need to choose. Big career or "just a paycheck, thank you".

What one does for a living--and how it's done--is very important to many people. It should not be trivialized, or impliedly forced on others, in the name of mental health and well-being. Let's not punish or chill those who have Big Dreams and Big Energies.

Posted by: Holden Oliver at May 23, 2009 03:36 PM

I am hoping that I am not the sort of worker you speak of, having worked 40 hour/week during the summer since I was 15. But even then, you notice only during the summer-- I was paid well during the summer and preferred concentrating on school during the school year rather than take a job that paid $7 an hour. I know my uncle thought it was crazy, he always talks about how he worked three jobs to make ends meet. I take out student loans and anticipate paying them off later instead.

In defense of this "work-life balance," I will point to the concept of working 1700 hours instead of 2100 hours, and being paid accordingly. I still plan on working those 1700, I'm not just sitting at my desk like Wally from Dilbert. I don't need to get paid $150K+; 100K will do. My girlfriend and I can easily make ends meet at 200K combined and would much prefer that than to have me pull a disappearing act all the time.

I guess I am confused about your anger; maybe I am not the slacker you speak of and am lucky to have never witnessed it, but it seems as though expecting less work and less pay is a pretty simple concept. You'll notice that the trend with companies like Patagonia and others is to be more employee-friendly and it typically results in a happier work force, without detracting from overall productivity.

Would you care to elaborate, preferably with an example, so I can better understand your argument? Or is it simply that everyone should have to work 60+ hours a week.

Posted by: Born in '84 at May 26, 2009 04:08 PM

Holden is long gone--but he's not angry. Just worried about the American work ethic--as he should be. And about lawyering. +60 hours a week: no. Could be 30 hours a week if you are that good. Clients 24/7 when they need you: yes. BTW, our firm has no billable hour requirement. It hurts clients.

Posted by: Hull at May 26, 2009 04:50 PM

I found this blog recently and was impressed with the title. By my generational birth order I am in the middle of Gen X & Y. I think both are ridiculous. However, I do "suffer" a similar malady in that I am completely drowning in debt in a market of overly educated slackers. I do not suffer from the same motivational malady though. However, for me, the real question is how to rise out of the crushing educated masses of attorneys that just want to collect a pay check.

In my position at a NYC BigLaw firm, I see people making twice what I do and they have absolutely no interest in actually helping their clients. All I see is is that artificial indices of intelligence abound in law firms, from LSAT scores to Harvard Law grad pedigree. I want so desperately to be molded into a fabulous attorney, but cannot even be considered because it is now assumed that most people my age are incompetent or at least desire to be.

Posted by: elizabeth at May 27, 2009 03:51 PM

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