Ultra Vires


My Life in New York

Even as I applied to New York firms, I never really expected I’d come here, and as I flew back from my interview, was pretty sure I’d turn my offer down. New York is an enormous, old, dirty and rather intimidating city. Nevertheless, I decided to not wimp out, and have been living here since September, in an 89-year-old apartment building in the East Village of Manhattan.

Both my building and neighborhood – like so much of this city – have tremendous character (which in my building’s case, also meant that my neighbor had a bug problem last fall that briefly became my bug problem). The East Village is at once residential, social and highly liveable, rental rates notwithstanding. It goes without saying that every building is at least 5 stories tall, and most have apartments in them, but the ground floors of every building are made up of restaurants, bars, shops and other services. Since I moved here, I’ve gotten the three best haircuts of my life, each just 4 blocks away and each for less than I paid at Hart House.

New York’s history and density are partly responsible for the creation of diverse neighborhoods such as mine, and are two of the things I enjoy most about the city. Even the subway is over 100 years old – and is still more effective than the TTC. And as absurd as it sounds, I really do think that seeing neat-looking buildings everywhere – instead of drab condos – makes me consistently happier.

When I accepted my offer, I expected I’d eventually bolt back to Toronto, probably within 3-4 years. Four months in, I think that is still my plan. I loved living in Toronto, all my friends are there, my family is nearby, and I know Ontario law far better than New York law. (Notwithstanding the fact that I’m scheduled to be admitted to the New York bar in February.) In addition, a far smaller proportion of lawyers at my firm make partner than do in Toronto. If anything, they’re going to want me to leave at some point.

And yet…at least once a week, I catch myself thinking a less web-friendly version of “Wow, I can’t believe how freaking cool it is that I live in New York.” Admittedly, this often happens as I walk home from a bar in the West Village, but it also happens between the subway and my office, and even at my office, where I can (actually) see the Statue of Liberty from my desk.

My desk (or rather, the work I do at it) was, of course, the main reason I came here. I was hired into my firm’s General Practice (corporate) group, and was expecting to work at a torrid pace on a slew of massive, complicated deals. Unfortunately, there was a major slowdown in deal flow last fall, so I ended up spending most of my first 3 months in litigation, writing a memo and doing research for an amicus brief on gun control for a SCOTUS appeal (interesting) and also spending 5 weeks on a document review (less interesting).

While I have since been assigned to a (puny) M&A deal, I will admit that so far the work itself has been somewhat underwhelming. Even so, my work experience overall has been very positive. My firm does a ton of great training and makes a real effort to assign me the kind of work I’m most interested in doing. For my first 18 months, I can do any corporate work I want, after which I’ll be assigned to two practice groups – I’m hoping for M&A and Securities. I wasn’t too busy at first, but I have been working late and doing some weekend work for the past month or so. The New York weekday starts at 9:30 though, which is great for being able to work out before work.

My colleagues – both peers and seniors – have been a pleasure to work with, and I’ve even got a core group of work friends I go out with on Fridays (most of whom are Canadian or French). One less positive side to New York is that I do miss my Toronto friends and have been less quick to make new ones here than I had hoped, although I do have some school friends I see occasionally. In the meantime, I keep myself busy Saturday nights by online dating. (By this I mean I talk to women online on weeknights and go on real dates on Saturdays.)

Unfortunately, I’ve exceeded my wordcount limit, so that’s all there is to say about that.

If you’re interested in working in New York and want to know more, feel free to Facebook the author.





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