$80 Grand to Goof Off?

| Wed Dec. 16, 2009 2:49 PM EST

Elizabeth Wurtzel writes about recruiting at the top drawer law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore:

The class of associates that just joined Cravath was asked to defer their arrival for a year in exchange for a sweet deal: They would receive $80,000 to not work, plus they would get benefits and student-loan payments. This offer was optional.

....I've been told that none of the graduates of Yale Law School who were headed for Cravath accepted their offer of $80,000 to surf and sunbathe, or go forth and save the world. Since no one at either institution is willing to discuss this — and I don't blame them, because I would be embarrassed too — I don't know this for certain. But here's what I'm sure of: Not everybody took Cravath up on this peachy keen opportunity to do anything for a year with pay and benefits. And that by itself is disturbing enough.

Felix Salmon says this piece has been gnawing at him all day.  "What on earth would possess a law student fresh out of Yale Law to decline this offer?" he wonders.  My guess is that Wurtzel answers the question here:

Those who will be joining the firm next year are slightly, but only by a smidge, less lucky: They get $65,000 to put off employment for a year, with the same perquisites, and acceptance is mandatory.

Law students who get offers to join Cravath tend to be super ambitious Type A folks, and that's a big part of why they want to get their careers started right away.  But surely fear is the biggest reason for turning down this offer, isn't it?  Fear #1: this is just a test.  Anyone who takes them up on it will be tagged forever as a slacker.  Who wants that?  Fear #2: if the economy is still bad a year from now — and apparently Cravath has already decided that it will be — will Cravath keep paying me not to work?  Along with yet another class they want to keep on the hook?  And after two or three years of this, what then?  My skills are rusty, my classmates have two or three years of valuable experience and professional networking, and Cravath will toss me aside.  What happens after that?  Will some other top firm take a flyer on someone who's spent the past few years watching reruns of The Wire or lying on the beach?

I'm not nearly the workaholic that a top Yale law student is, but I wouldn't touch this offer with a bargepole.  I'd get my suits pressed, shine my shoes, and show up to work.  When times are tough, who wouldn't?

Get Mother Jones by Email - Free. Like what you're reading? Get the best of MoJo three times a week.