Every year around this time, I read hundreds of responses to our annual midlevel survey and think about moving out of Manhattan. Look, NewYork is nice, but it’s nothing compared to the paradise that midlevelassociates from Chicago, Atlanta, Seattle, and dozens of other citiesdescribe when they talk about their lives. The partners are good-natured,the clients are sedate, and the senior associates are friendly andsupportive. The work is fun, and there’s always plenty of time for bikingaround the lake at the end of yet another fulfilling workday. Sure, the paymay be a little lower than in New York, these associates say, but there areintangible rewards that money just can’t buy.

Associates at big firms in New York tell a different tale. The partners?Sadistic. The work? Mind-numbing and pointless. There are all-nighters inthe library, months of document production, 16-hour workdays spent withoutseeing the sun. Even meet a client? In your dreams, buddy. The seniorassociates are conniving little back-stabbers, the partnership track isnonexistent, and the unrelenting, inhuman stress is just the prelude todivorce, illness, and maybe even little brushes with psychosis.

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