The Straw that “Chipped” the Camel’s Back

Becoming a partner was the default choice of my BigLaw career path.  I started at Davis Polk, first two years in Hong Kong and one year in New York.  Then I lateralled to Simpson Thacher’s London office.  I was there for two years before returning to its New York office last June.

So when I told my colleagues that I was quitting law, many of them were surprised at first and then curious to know what was the straw that broke the camel’s back.   I suppose they thought I was ambitious enough to gun for partnership and then was burnt out and fed up.

I wasn’t burnt out or fed up.  I don’t think there was a proverbial straw, but there was a definite moment when the idea of quitting law was “incepted” into my mind. (If you have seen the movie Inception, you know what I mean.)

The moment occurred on a freezing Sunday evening on December 6, 2009.

After my husband and I came back to NY after years of being expats, we became huge Giants fans.  We did some research and got the best tickets (according to the stadium manager interviewed by Vanity Fair) for the Giants v. Cowboys game.  I used to be a Cowboys fan when I lived in Dallas before law school, so this game was extra exciting for me since I switched my allegiance.

The tickets were close to $700 a pop on StubHub, but we bit the bullet justifying that we deserved this treat because we worked hard enough.  The seats were indeed great – panoramic view of the field right on the 50 yard line at the front of the balcony without any obstructions.  With my binocular, I could clearly see the steam rising off of the players’ head.

The day before the game, a conference call that was scheduled for Saturday was cancelled and was to be rescheduled for the next day.  The call was for a deal that had already robbed me of many weekends.  There were a flurry of emails Sunday morning, but no time was finalized.  So, in short, during much of the game, I was nervously checking my Blackberry to see if and when the call would happen.

There were some locals sitting several rows behind me in seats that cost less than 1/5 of our tickets.  They looked relaxed, nicely bundled with their hands tucked in their warm mittens (unlike me with frozen fingers typing on my Blackberry).  I wished I were them sitting in the less expensive and desirable seats without the immediate worry of having to get on a potential conference call.

Then, I had the epiphany — I could be like them if I wanted to.  It was my choice to do what I do.

It was a nail biting game all the way to the end when the Giants won 31 to 24.  We were jumping up and down, then the dreaded email came for a conference call scheduled to start in the next 30 minutes.

We got to the Secaucus station just in time for the call.  I sat at the station to take the call (since there would be no reception on the train) for the next 2 hours.  My poor husband sat next to me, patiently, reading his New York Times articles on his iPhone.

That deal died before Christmas.

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