My short bio: for the past 9 years I have been a Partner-track associate at a Biglaw firm. They sent me to Doha for the past 2.5 years. While there, I worked on some amazing projects and was in the most elite of practice groups. I had my second son. I witnessed a society that had the most extreme rich:poor divide you could imagine. I met people who considered other people to be of less human worth. I helped a poor mother get deported after she spent 3 years in jail for having a baby out of wedlock, arrested at the hospital and put in jail with her baby. I became disgusted by luxury lifestyle and lawyers who would give anything and everything to make millions. I encountered blatant gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and a very clear glass ceiling. Having a baby apparently makes you worth less as a lawyer. While overseas, I became inspired to start a company making boy dolls after I couldn't find any cool ones for my own sons. So I hired my sister to start a company that I would direct. Complete divergence from my line of work, I know, but I was convinced this would be a great niche business. As a lawyer, I was working sometimes 300 hours in a month and missing my kids all the time. I felt guilty for spending any time not firm related. I never had a vacation where I did not work. I missed my dear grandmother's funeral in December. In March I made the final decision that this could not last. There must be a better way. So I resigned. And now I am sitting in my mother's living room, having moved the whole family in temporarily - I have not lived with my mother since I was 17. I have moved out of Qatar. I have given up my very nice salary. I have no real plans except I am joining my sister to build my company. And I'm feeling a bit surreal and possibly insane for having given it up. Ask me anything!

I'm answering questions as fast as I can! Wow! But my 18 month old just work up jet lagged too and is trying to eat my computer.....slowing me down a bit!

This is crazy - I can't type as fast as the questions come in, but I'll answer them. This is fascinating. AM I SUPPOSED TO RESPOND TO EVERYONE??!

10:25 AM EST: Taking a short break. Kids are now awake and want to actually spend time with them :)

11:15 AM EST: Back online. Will answer as many questions as I can. Kids are with husband and grandma playing!

PS: I was thinking about this during my break: A lot of people have asked why I am doing this now. I have wanted to say some public things about my experience for quite some time but really did not dare to do so until I was outside of Qatar, and I also wanted to wait until the law firm chapter of my life was officially closed. I have always been conservative in expressing my opinion about my experience in Qatar while living there because of the known incidents of arrests for saying things in public that are contrary to the social welfare and moral good. This Reddit avenue appealed to me because now I feel free to actually say what I think about things and have an open discussion. It is so refreshing - thank you everyone for the comments and questions. Forums like this are such a testament to the value of freedom of expression.

Because several people have asked, here's a link to the Kickstarter campaign for my toy company. I am deeply grateful for any support.

My Proof:

Comments: 3120 • Responses: 71  • Date: 

Usus-Kiki1260 karma

I used to live in Dubai back in 2008, was only livingthere for a year before moving back to the US. Just wanted to say the wealth gap between the rich and the poor in the middle east is insane. Im a junior in college now but back then was an 8th grader and my dad would be very secretive of his salary, one day i saw it written on some kind of document and it was equal to something like $650,000/yr. i thought wow thats a lot wtf, turns out everyone there makes that much. My point in saying all of this is to basically ask you the question, do you think there is an unhealthy obsession with materialism in the middle east and do you think it will have long term effects on the younger generation growing up there, especially foreigners?

Edit 1: I wrote this at like 3am on my phone, in bed while resisting my eyes from shutting. So what I meant by "everyone makes that much" was, that at the private school I went to and the many other private schools that existed it was all about money and material possessions. Most expats and locals that went to these schools made quite a bit of money and so it made it feel like we were all in a bubble. Especially because it was Dubai, Dubai is an extremely glamorous and material city and its easy to get lost in it all. Also just want to explain that in most countries that arent the US, you dont really go to public school because its a really bad education/environment so going to a private school there is not considered "preppy" like it is here in the US.

Edit 2: Also by make this much I just meant six figues, or higher than might be considered average here in the west. And no my family/dad is not white, we're pakistani.

Kristenmj1111 karma

Okay I'm going to come back to this question because it is a GOOD ONE, and will take me time to answer. Short answer: Yes.

Still planning on coming back to this one!

draaakje304 karma


Fortune_Cat70 karma

Is it even that easy for a foreigner to get a job there? Do you know what they seek in skills? I don't want to be materialistic. Just make enough money for a year or two and come home to support my family

Kristenmj129 karma

That's what a lot of people say/do. That's kind of what I did. I am not sure it is worth it.

smileedude713 karma

This seems an all too common story in the legal profession. 70-80 hour weeks seems to be the norm. What do you think stops the industry from say doubling the staff, halving the workload per person and halving the salaries? It seems like it would be a win for everyone.

Kristenmj1294 karma

There are a lot of theories on this. I'm sure overhead is part of the issue. You make a lot more if you have fewer people billing more hours than more people billing less hours. Also, there's an elitism to the system, that some people revel in and many excel in. There's a boot camp mentality, and a reward mentality that if you sacrifice everything, you'll ultimately win the prize. I know it's cliche, but it is probably true that the prize is like winning more pie at a pie eating contest.

Thedirtyjersey116 karma

I would like to know... There's definitely an overabundance of lawyers coming out of school and under employed.

Kristenmj57 karma

Like many industries, it has its flaws and I think it is going through some big growing pains right now. My perspective is probably limited because I worked around mostly employed attorneys and don't know many people who were unable to find work.

vonarchimboldi554 karma

What type of law were you practicing? Can you tell us more about the deportation story?

Kristenmj1391 karma

I was practicing international arbitration - mostly commercial and contract disputes, lots of construction disputes in Qatar. I cannot speak publicly about any details of my specific client work, but my clients included sovereign governments and large corporations.

I am SO EXCITED about the deportation story, actually, because I just received an email from the woman that she was finally able to leave the country yesterday!!!! Here's a quote: "We are finally home! Thank you so much for everything that you have done for me and my son. My family is so grateful. We are all grateful."

The woman was arrested after she delivered her first baby at the main private hospital in Qatar. She was taken from the hospital to jail because she could not provide a marriage certificate. The standard penalty for a baby out of wedlock is one year. She spent one year in prison with her baby boy. While there, due to the imprisonment, she defaulted on some loans she had taken out. That resulted in two years more imprisonment for writing "bad checks" (pre-dated checks are required in Qatar for most loans, so if you don't make a payment, the lender tries to cash the check, and writing a bad check is illegal, hence the jail time). Once she was released from jail, she no longer had a job or a valid visa to be in the country. Her son was also illegal. However, she could not leave the country because Qatar had imposed a travel ban due to the outstanding civil cases that had been filed against her in the interim. So when she was released from jail, she had several civil suits pending that amounted to many times the original loan amount due to interest and penalties, and despite having served a criminal sentence, she now had to face the civil suits and could not leave. Her son was stuck there too, illegitimate and unable to go to school. She was living with her cousin and being fed out of the kindness of peoples' hearts. I found out about the case through an anonymous news report on Doha News and contacted the reporter. Although I do not deal with Qatari administrative law, I had done a lot of pro bono work in immigration and administrative legal issues both in the States and in Qatar, and I knew someone who I thought could help her. My firm agreed to take on the case pro bono, and after a few months of meetings with ministry officials and the deportation department, they finally let her leave yesterday!

Unfortunately, her case is extremely common, and I have heard many, many similar stories.

Laserdong868 karma

I wanted to throw up reading that the standard penalty for a child born out of wedlock is one year and that she got an additional two years of debtors prison for defaulting on loans while in prison. What an evil culture.

Kristenmj426 karma

It was very upsetting and shocking to me, especially as a young mother. When I met with the woman I was helping, and who has since been able to leave the country, I learned that she spent much of her time in jail with many other women in the same situation. It's unpublicized and I don't really know how anyone would find out more because the system is so closed.

nigtox220 karma

jeez, she didn't stand a chance... what luck you were there for her

Kristenmj351 karma

I want to give full credit to my colleague who really did all the leg work. I just paid attention to the case.

Arguss35 karma

Why do firms take pro-bono cases? Just for the good publicity it will bring?

Kristenmj183 karma

Ethical responsibilities. Good publicity. Feels good for lots of people. Rankings in for recruitment so they can tell baby lawyers that they spend time doing good.

nomaroma505 karma

Can you please discuss your experiences being a woman in Qatar/the Middle East? How were you treated and was your career a factor in how others treated you? Did any of your experiences carry over into the office?

Kristenmj749 karma

I was at a slight advantage when I transferred to Qatar because I was already established as an associate at my firm, so it wasn't difficult for me to find work. From a long-term future perspective, it would have been difficult to continue in Qatar since business is almost exclusively conducted by men still, and anything government related is heavily male dominated. I think the male-to-female ratio generally in Qatar was about 8-to-1. Some government ministries don't even have women's bathrooms.

I felt most of my gender-related issues as a woman lawyer, and especially as a new mother. That was not related specifically to Qatar, but was more related to the male-dominated legal industry. I found that in the upper ranks, especially in litigation/arbitration, women were a rarity. I was at a hearing recently where there were ZERO upper-ranked women, and the only women participating actively in the hearing (besides myself) were junior associates or paralegal/secretarial-types. The partnership ranks in my field are severely male-dominated. Over time, it has an impact, especially when you do not have a stay-at-home spouse and you have a young family. I think the general bias against women in the legal industry is short sighted because if a woman has a couple of intense years where she is raising a family plus working hard, she is still a major contributor to the firm and obviously can bring long-term benefits to the firm that go beyond the few "maternity" years. But from what I have seen, many firms (not just my own), get hung up on women who need to take maternity leave, have family responsibilities, or cannot work 110% of the time. Actually, this is true for men as well, but women tend to deal with it more because of the biological maternity aspect of things.

xpanicked451 karma

It hurts me to say I thought you were male all the way up until I clicked your proof links. Even then I thought the pictures were of a wife. Wasn't until I got to the second one until I realized my error. Really shows the subtlety of gender discrimination.

EDIT: i always assumed my first gold would be from some sexual innuendo. quite surprising.

Kristenmj130 karma

Wow. So interesting. Thank you for sharing.

straydog1980248 karma

What can you tell us (that we haven't heard about in the news) about the upcoming World Cup from the perspective of someone who lived in Qatar recently?

Kristenmj598 karma

My opinion (which you have already heard) is that it was bought and paid for. I also think it is bizarre that Qatar would even want to host the World Cup for several reasons:

  1. They don't have the infrastructure. The country is completely under construction. They are working on infrastructure, but everything is late in the construction world there because the system has been established where a few wealthy nationals hire a ton of money hungry contractors who are usually not A-class. The projects get messed up and delayed. Safety concerns abound. The city where the final cup is to be played is not yet built, and the stadium in it is also not yet built. And there is so much more infrastructure needed (although some may ask the question of why because the population is relatively low - 2 million total, most of whom are expats and workers!).
  2. Qatar's values are conflicted. Drinking in public is illegal there and alcohol is strictly restricted. The World Cup, to me, involves a lot of drinking. Even if drinking is allowed in the stadiums, what about outside the stadiums? After-parties? General lifestyle issues associated with drinking? I have no idea how this will play out, but I imagine it will be extremely difficult for the country leaders to deal with. There is also a general cultural restriction on clothing and the need to cover shoulders and knees. Not sure how this will fly with the general attending public.
  3. There's not much to do outside of the Cup if you are going to attend, so not sure how they are going to get the audience to attend. Qatar has been known to fill empty stadium seats with workers.
  4. The heat issue, although I think this has been fixed if the games are moved to the winter. If it is in the summer, people will definitely absolutely die from the heat. Even if the stadiums are cooled, I can imagine overheating from crowds going to and from the stadiums and waiting outside to get in. Also after-parties and other gatherings would be miserable if hot.

YourVillageIdiot129 karma

That's a great answer.

Follow-up question: is it safe? Will security be adequate? It simply astounded me when they announced the World Cup there. Obviously money is the reason they get to host, but my reaction when they announced it is best summed up as OMGWTF WHY?

Kristenmj208 karma

It depends on what you mean by "safe". I think from a security aspect it is pretty safe. The US Embassy sends out regular security warnings, especially around Ramadan time, but it is probably one of the safest places in the region. The construction, fatal car accidents, and other general safety issues, though, make living there slightly less safe. I'm going to watch the World Cup time with interest...

Escatologul199 karma

Congratulations for your decision, I imagine it was really tough to come to this settlement. Since when did you come up with the idea that it would be better to retire from practising law ? I imagine it wasn't only for 4 months, as you said, you worked an insanely amount of time.

Kristenmj262 karma

I finalized the decision in March just before I resigned. I honestly had moments where I almost did not do it. It was a very, very difficult decision to come to, especially because I love practicing law, and in some regards I loved my specific job. The subject matter and clients were amazing. Some of the lawyers were out of this world smart and good at their jobs. But the system, IMO, is flawed and I just couldn't continue at the pace I was going at. I think the move to Doha really started the thought process of leaving because it caused me to think a lot about priorities and what money really can and cannot buy.

Grabbyperson161 karma

Just checked out boy story, the dolls are such an awesome concept and I would love to purchase one for my son but the shipping page seems to be incomplete or down. Do you guys ship internationally? Thanks

Kristenmj146 karma

We are working on shipping internationally, and this week our Kickstarter will open up for international shipping!

unsubstantiation39 karma

Do you plan on handling fulfillment/shipping/customer service yourself?

Kristenmj61 karma

We are engaging a fulfillment center, and we have just worked out the international shipping details with them. To be announced very shortly.

TurbanatorUK144 karma

Was there anything you enjoyed about that lifestyle? Good food, hotels, perks? Or was it such that the work took over your life fully leaving you little time to appreciate those things?

Kristenmj589 karma

I loved not having to worry about money. I have college funds for my kids, two houses, a 401k, and a big savings. We could travel and splurge, and it didn't matter. I kind of enjoyed the business travel - got to see great places and eat at fancy restaurants. I can't lie, some of that is fun and interesting. Of course it is. But its value is VERY limited. I don't want to wake up at age 75 and look back to think I've ate at good restaurants and slept in business class cabins. I want to think that I've spent some amazing moment with my kids, learned a lot, had good experiences, had time to think and pray, cooked good meals, and contributed to society. The last one is a big one. I want to feel like what I have done makes this word a better place for my kids and their kids, and my friends, and the people I don't know. I want to contribute to helping people stand up for their rights and not be afraid to say things when things need to be said. I could go on and on. At the end of the day, I want to be able to say that my life contributed more than just sitting and billing hour upon hour to help rich people stay rich.

HunkaHunka97 karma

What was your billing target? What did you actually bill?

Kristenmj141 karma

Most recent all-in target was 2500 (including non-billable). I always met or exceeded my targets (they changed over time). I typically billed (meaning non-billable excluded) about 2200/year. Less or pro-rated while on maternity years, which in my personal belief massively impacted my bonus, partner, and salary increase eligibility.

annul41 karma

2500 is fucking insane

i mean 400k is pretty good though so i guess its alright but i would be the one asking "hey can we make that 1800 and ill take 288k instead"

Kristenmj55 karma

Yes, but that 1800 is a billable target and not an all-in with non-billable. And targets end up not mattering so much when the case / partner pressures are constant and intense.

Refbn12393 karma

As a teenager whose childhood dream was always to be a lawyer, I feel conflicted. I have read many similar horror stories of having loads of money but no time for themselves and their families.

Should I give up on becoming a lawyer and go for a less stressful career with less earnings but better work-life balance?

Kristenmj183 karma

I wouldn't say don't be a lawyer. I'd just say think very carefully about the career path you might want (and it is very hard to know what that is - gee, I don't seem to know!), be willing to change if you see an opportunity, and also consider what your financial goals are. The thing with biglaw is that people just go for the gold and don't often think about whether they need all that. I'd say I was making at least 3x more than I really need (and that's probably a liberal estimate...).

Lawyers can do a lot of good. They can also be somewhat crazy people to work with, money driven, stressed out, and all the bad things people associate with lawyers. I actually love being a lawyer (don't know what that says about me), but I only loved being a lawyer about 30 hours per week. After that, I missed my family and my life, and I often wondered where it was all going.

I heard a silly inspirational TED talk before making my decision where the message was, "the only way you can change things is to change." So that's what I did. I can think through it all day long (and am hoping this Reddit helps me with the post-decision analysis), but at the end of the day, I just had to draw the line and make the decision to change.

Bahndoos93 karma

" I met people who considered other people to be of less human worth"

Could you elaborate on this please?

Kristenmj176 karma

Sure. I met people who considered those who worked for them to be of far less human value than themselves. Those at the "top" believed that they could take risks with human lives at the "bottom" because those lives were not "worth" as much. This permeated into many aspects of society, including little things like getting ahead in traffic, getting the closest parking spot at the school or mall, and generally having someone pay attention to you if it mattered. We see it in the way laborers are treated especially in Qatar and other GCC countries. Lives are risked and lost unnecessarily to attain material goals. And then the justice system does not appropriate penalize those who take the risks and abuse the lives of others.

LzTangeL78 karma

I know this isn't too relevant, but as somebody who is going to be in Qatar near Doha for a year. What things do you recommend doing/good restaurants to go to?

Kristenmj156 karma

Well, I said AMA, and I do know a bit about Qatar! If you are going to be there for a year, you will spend a lot of time hot and bored. But some fun things: - Souq Waqif - Dune bashing (I recommend hiring someone with a Land Cruiser who is a pro for this) - Hakkasan, Nobu, and Opal for okay restaurants at hotels that cost a lot but serve really good food - Hee Yaw, Layali, Carluccios, and Turkish Central for okay restaurants that do not serve alcohol but are reasonably priced - Kayaking by the mangroves - Katara - check Doha News and the Katara website for events - Jazz Club at St Regis (my favorite activity - some very good music!)

Jacross72 karma

What does your family think of your decision?

How much liquid wealth did you amass?

Kristenmj110 karma

My family is 100% supportive.

I saved enough to finance myself through the transition and help startup the company. Some of it is not necessarily savings since I have chosen not to pay off certain debts in order to maintain a level of liquidity during this transition.

woowoo29345 karma

Also, was/is your husband working at the same time?

Kristenmj87 karma

Yes he is, but he took a break to find a new job when we moved over there, and he is now transitioning into a new job as we have moved back. From a career perspective, he has always followed my job location, but he's taking the reins for a bit now.

throwawaymypaycheque57 karma

As a corporate lawyer working in a boutique firm with a cushy 9 to 5 and fat pay check, I often get these urges to quit and start my own legal practice. I am almost 30, have very little contacts to enable me to build a client base fast, am kind of well off financially and am single, so no kids to feed or educate (yet). What would you do if you were me?

Edit: Thank you OP and everyone else for sharing your thoughts and experiences. I guess im not very satisfied with where I am in life, except the money. Lets see where life takes me, but I guess quitting my job right now doesnt seem to be the obvious answer! Cheers!

Kristenmj105 karma

Personally? I'd keep the job you have if you like it. Unless your passion is to have your own practice over working for someone else, your practices won't be very different, will they? Also, if you are at a boutique, are you on partner track? In that way, if you were partner, couldn't you have your "own legal practice"? Or is the goal to be a solo lawyer?

Pubsie54 karma

We're you familiar with the Doha Mall fire that killed many people? As a nz'er it's in our media, as 3 young triplets were killed. Despite assurances there would be justice (even by our own Prime Minister) the owners have been let off with a fine. Is this type of 'justice' common in Qatar?

Kristenmj91 karma

So familiar with that case. Just talked about it yesterday actually, and discussed how sad it was that the NZ family lost triplets. I can't imagine. The owners have all been let off without jail time, and the judge refused to use words like "guilt" and "conviction". This type of "justice" is the norm, and the decision is not surprising.

agingbythesecond46 karma

Im a dad of 2 kids and I work a job making aboit 1/4 of your old salary. With a little hard work I know I could be making more but that would require more travel and more time away from my family but I just cant do it. Was there some sort of event that happened that made you feel guilty that you were spending too much time working?

Kristenmj122 karma

I think living around a lot of people who worked 24/7 and didn't see their kids really made me stop and think about what on earth I was doing. Also my grandmother died in November. I found out 2 hours before I was heading to the airport to work at a hearing for 3 weeks. I couldn't even take the time to mourn. It was horrible. I missed her funeral the next month because of another hearing. My grandmother was my role model, and I asked myself whether she would approve of my life's path and how I was spending my time. She wouldn't.

masonroese46 karma

Did you go to a top tier law school? Is your job unique?

Kristenmj98 karma

I went to American University - which has fallen in the rankings since I attended but is in the top 100. My job was amazingly unique, and rarely boring. I ended up in commercial arbitration, but was working on issues such as corruption, human rights, and fraud. Some investor-state treaty arbitration as well, which I loved and is something of an elite practice area in biglaw.

_420CakeDay42 karma

is Katie Jarvis single?

Kristenmj29 karma

Maybe :)

asdjk48236 karma

Surreal and insane? I'd expect to feel super-real and uncannily sane.

Here's my question: You mentioned the overwhelming level of inequality in Qatar (and the world, to no less a degree than that microcosm of it), and you must be intimately aware of the inhumanity and injustice it engenders. Do you feel at all... selfish? or at least somewhat guilty for operating on a framework that places dolls and the luxuries of your family above other concerns?

I'm not trying to guilt-trip you, I'm genuinely asking for your perspective.

Making 400k USD per year puts you well in the top global 1%. You have advantages and power that most of humanity can only dream of.

I'm inquiring because I am much, much poorer than you by US standards - below the poverty line, even - and yet I'm still in the top 5% of worldwide wealth. I feel immensely responsible for the suffering and exploitation of countless people who have been victimized, disenfranchised, and treated without the slightest human regard by an economic system that I am directly complicit in - an economic system for which the only raison d'etre is the ever-increasing accumulation of power and wealth (and greed!) in the hands of very few, at the expense of the very many, facilitated by the indifference (or myopia) and hard work (or begrudged acceptance) of people like you and me. I feel like I should do something differently. Don't you?

Kristenmj60 karma

It feels like I am in a bit of a twilight zone right now. Maybe super-real and uncannily sane is a better way of putting it. My 24/7 work life is done. I am at my mother's house with two active kids, a Kickstarter campaign to work on, and no real idea of where we will be living in the next few months. That's a bit of a tough pill to swallow for me since I am a super planner and usually not a risk taker.

The question of guilt by world income ranking is an interesting one. I don't feel guilty for wanting to work hard and provide for my family. Everyone needs to work to put food on the table, and some earn more and some earn less. I have done a lot of thinking about income and equality. There are problems caused by major income gaps. But I think it's a combination of major income gaps plus systems designed to keep those at the low end from moving up. I also do not think there should be total equality, nor will there ever be, among workers and incomes. I actually feel pretty good about being able to have the financial ability to change my course and build a company that could have some major social change in the toy industry and in children's lives (and ultimately in their adult lives). There's a lot of value in giving kids healthy play environments, encouraging pretend play, and learning about equality from a young age.

Guilt is one thing you could have for being part of a system that is responsible for suffering and exploitation, just as you say. But you need to look at how you ended up there and what is really causing the problem. You probably didn't enter the system thinking that you wanted to hurt others. You probably became educated, got a job, and wanted to take care of yourself and your family. Then you may have looked around and realized that others were doing the same but couldn't reach your income level. And others were being abused. And that brought guilt because you were not. So, upon realizing this and feeling guilty, I think it is reasonable to want to do something about it. At the end of the day, in my view, the most I can do to help is to support social structures that preserve rights and equality while allowing people to work hard and reap rewards. This is a question that might warrant a multi-day essay, so I can't really go on much further except to say I understand where you are coming from and have felt some of that guilt, but also want to keep focused on how I can contribute to good overall. Abandoning wealth out of guilt doesn't seem like the answer to me.

okmann9836 karma

Have you beared witness to the alleged mistreatment of migrant workers in Qatar? If so, how bad has it become?

Kristenmj101 karma

Yes, to domestic workers. I don't really see much of the construction workers, and they are largely hidden from the Western expat population (especially folks in the professional world like lawyers and bankers). But I REGULARLY saw people working unbearable hours in hot and unbearable conditions, being held in the country without any ability to leave without their employers' permission, being paid a few hundred dollars per month while their employers made millions, miserable. Some Nepalese workers couldn't go home to their family after the earthquake last year to mourn the dead. Their employers wouldn't let them. The justice system is questionable, and if a Qatari or person of authority was up against a worker, the worker would not win, almost assuredly. The ILO has published a lot of case studies on this issue, and the UN (I believe) is about to come out with another article. I want to write something now that I am out of the country about the abuses and the issues with holding people trapped in the country for labor. Forthcoming...

Gromold23 karma

Please do that.

Kristenmj14 karma

On my list!

Team9S35 karma

How awesome do you feel? Seriously that story is awesome.

Kristenmj59 karma

Thank you. You just made me feel more awesome. I vacillate between awesome and completely anxious.

GetShrektPlebz28 karma

Well, what can I say. It's a crazy life, but who said all of that man made wealth would be worth it for all that work? Some people are making far over 400k a year doing much less than you, so if you're giving up more than 50-60 hours in a week of your time, you're really selling yourself short. That was a nice salary yes, but so is 250k if you can make a more meaningful living and have spare time.

Kristenmj25 karma

I agree!

Pabbom25 karma

Hi, my girlfriend is in her final year of a law degree but doesnt have a reddit account so Im asking this for her:

I'm about to begin my vacation schemes at two international law firms with a view to a training contract with them, and found your story extremely interesting, especially the part about having a glass ceiling and gender discrimination for women, because this is something that I have always been concerned about. Even though more women than men studies law in my year, from my experiences at interviews and meeting associates, the practice is still dominated by men - especially at the partner level! So I was wondering if you can expand on what you mean by 'glass ceiling' - what are some of the experiences that have made you feel this way, and do you think you have any advice for women who are aspiring to enter law for dealing with this issue?

Kristenmj46 karma

Thank you for asking this question. The reason I mentioned it in my AMA bio is because, of all the things that may have surprised me most about my recent experiences, it was this issue. The Internet may judge me for this one, but I really believed that I was entering into the firm as an associate and as an equal to all my peers. I believed that if I worked very hard, proved my smarts, and excelled in my reviews and hours that I would be rewarded the same way as everyone else. And indeed, I was promoted very well and encouraged by most. I worked mostly with men, especially at the upper levels of litigation and arbitration. But then I looked around at the upper ranks of my practice group. I looked at the ones who were being made partner. I looked at the ones who sat on the executive team and management board. I had intimate conversations with some of the female leaders. This is what I found: In my practice group late last year, there were only 6 female partners - out of a group of approximately 30 lawyers. 3 of those partners were in the Paris office. That meant, that unless I was in the Paris office, my chances for promotion to partner, statistically, were about 1 in 10. Okay that's a rough estimate, but you get the idea. Then, I saw who made partner this year. Completely randomly, partner announcements came out at my firm the same day I submitted my resignation (but after I submitted it). Who made partner in my group? All but 1 were men, and all of them working insane hours, either single or with stay at home wives. I don't know of one who was from a dual working family (although there may be one I didn't know). Then I talked to my mentor at the firm, a female leader who stuck with it through some very rough times. Through tears she described to me the massive number of instances where she had pushed forward an idea or proposal, and then the inner group of male leaders seized it, held meetings without telling her, and took credit. This happened over and over and over. And I talked to others in the industry. Close friends in other big firms. Young mothers who were being told by male partners that "they probably couldn't make it with kids at home" and "the partnership isn't a place for working moms." I am not kidding.

Now, that all said, I have seen people work through the system just fine. I have seen some fly to the top and become management. I have seen some moms get a really great work-life balance with a part time schedule. I have seen some women rewarded for their intelligence by being able to go into a consulting or senior counsel role. So it's not impossible and not all bad. But it's a struggle, the struggle is real, the gender biases are strong and overwhelming, and the proof is in the pudding - just look at who runs the big firms.

JustOneMoreBastard19 karma

Did you ever enjoy the long weeks where you were doing 70+ hours? and how did you manage to get through the 300 hour months and not crash and burn at any point?

Kristenmj41 karma

I have the personality to work long hours and actually enjoy it. I really got into my case work, and cared about my clients (leaving that was very hard to do). Writing is enjoyable, and the time goes by quickly when I am immersed in the work. There were some times I thought I would crash and burn, but I was often so driven by deadlines and demands, that I had to keep going to make them work. I guess this could be considered a "crash and burn"?

10000215219 karma

Hi! I'm wrapping up my first year in law school right now (Civ Pro final is next Monday, wish me luck!). I'm attending a top 20 law school and I'm on the cusp of reaching the top quartile of my class. Given your experience, I wanted to ask you a few questions about law school and the legal profession.

If you could go back, would you have gone through law school again and done something different with your J.D.? Or would you have done something completely different? Do you have any advice you'd give a 1L like myself? Do you keep in touch with any of your friends from law school? If so, are their stories similar/different from yours? Do you see a similar burnout rate in other legal fields?

For reference, I'm in law school because I want to do public sector litigation - prosecution, public defense, working for a government agency, and so on. I really want to do JAG straight out of law school (my summer internship this year is with JAG, actually). Personally, I came to law school to find a profession and not because of the money. But I'd be interested in hearing if other lawyers get the same burnout even if they're not working in Big Law.

Thanks for doing this AMA!

Kristenmj23 karma

Congratulations on your success so far and good luck with the finals.

I loved law school, and love being a lawyer. The profession has some great people in it, and can serve a lot of good. And the experiences I have had are invaluable to me. So it is very hard to say I would go back and change things. Maybe I need to give it some time to really say.

Recently, my mind has often drifted to the question of whether a different career would have been better. Maybe. There's no telling really. There's no perfect career path. You just have to follow opportunities, and I suppose the lesson I am trying to share at this point is that you also have to be able to stop things if they get out of hand. At least that's what I'm trying to do.

I love my law school classmates. They are some of my best friends even to this day. Law school was an amazing experience. Enjoy it to the fullest! Most of my former classmates have found career paths that are exciting to them. I have had some "burn out" and make drastic changes. One has been hiking around the world for the past 2 years. Others have switched from private firms to in-house. Others have gone into government. Some have gone out of law entirely. There's no one right path. Most seem satisfied with their careers. And if you LOVE your career (and little else), I think law, especially biglaw can be satisfying from a prestige perspective.

Lots of people go to law school thinking they will change the world. A lot do contribute to great changes and help protect our justice system. I went in thinking I was going to be an immigration lawyer. I still help lots of people with immigration issues.

If you are really passionate about public sector litigation, then I'd say keep pursuing it. You might burn out, but you might not. Only time will tell, and I suppose you can take the same advice I did: If you want to change, the only way to do it is change.

HeroLiesInYou18 karma

How has your perspectives changed over the 9 years at the firm?

Kristenmj40 karma

This is a hard question because it is somewhat vague. I suppose my perspectives have changed in that I understand much more about how the world works, what drives lawyers and businesses, and how there are trustworthy and untrustworthy people in all walks of life. I know that sounds kind of superficial, but it's a hard question to answer, and that's my general answer.

whoglyogglydoo17 karma

We missed each other @ AmericanU by a year. I was on the same tract as you, int'l law, when I had an epiphany that I didn't want to work like a slave. So I jumped into tech which was easy to do in the DC area with no experience.

But my question is about the dolls. My daughter loves American Girl. The last time we went was 2 months ago and spent just shy of $400. Are your dolls meant to compliment American girl dolls? Are they the same size? Could they use the same accessories?

Kristenmj23 karma

Hey - wow it is a small world! Hope you're happy in the tech industry. My husband loves it. He's now looking for an IT project management job in the DC area if you know of anything....

About the dolls, they are designed to be a compliment doll to the many girl dolls out there, especially American Girl. They are the approximate same size, just slightly taller with molded hair. We are testing with accessories and most are usable with our dolls. We envision the little boys and girls playing together a lot :) If you are interested, please support the Kickstarter!! :D

vaioseph9 karma

I'm going to be starting in Biglaw soon. I've got a training contract with a London Magic Circle firm to start in 2017. What advice do you have for handling the pressure and awful work/life balance?

Kristenmj8 karma

I would say to be able as much as possible to draw your boundaries. Be able to put down your phone/computer. Make sure you keep enjoying the things you enjoy now. But I can't say I succeeded...that's why I changed things.

Redbotz438 karma

Having seen such inequality in a country where materialism is celebrated and human rights ignored, how has your perspective changed as you transitioned from an education in the States to witnessing other humans being neglected their freedom ? Do you feel in some way inclined to use your degree to help fight corruption as we would call it in America or are you another satisfied bystander believing that society values you more than the people who don't have the means to attain documentation? Not a personal attack just mad at the world that's all...

Kristenmj12 karma

It is my goal to contribute as much as I can to protect human and civil rights in my own country and to fight injustice. Can't do it all, but can do some. I will use my experience, if not my degree, to continue contributing to change.

filteredmind8 karma

I feel like I might become you in a few years. If you didn't have any kids and a wife, would you still make the same decision?

Kristenmj38 karma

Well, I have kids and a husband (since I am a woman) :)

I probably wouldn't have made the same decision if I didn't have kids and a husband. One of the reasons I left, though, was because those who were most successful in my practice group either were (1) single and able to work 24/7 without any real family obligations or (2) had a stay-at-home wife. One partner bragged about the fact that he had spent 20 nights in one month on an airplane....

I don't know, maybe if I had been similarly inspired with a company idea and some other path, I wouldn't have stayed. I really felt discouraged as a working mom, though, and ultimately feel disillusioned about the money versus the time and healthy lifestyle lost.

BlizzardID9 karma

Out of curiosity, completely unrelated btw, when you read a story and there is no implication of gender do you usually assume male or female? I can't tell if I just assume that lawyers are male or if I am not given a gender, I assume everyone is male because I am.

Kristenmj11 karma

I don't know! I will think about it now though :) I might have assumed I was male if I had read my own post though.

huganic5 karma

You're clearly knackered and jet-lagged, so why AMA now? Why make a new account for your AMA?

Kristenmj36 karma

Because I woke up in the middle of the night and needed to get some of this stuff out. I randomly thought of AMA because I've been reading about it recently and thought it would be a great way to sort through some of the things I had dealt with. Also think it might be interesting for others and want to get some perspective.

CommunistCupcake10 karma

She's got two little kids. She's going to be knackered for a long time.

Kristenmj13 karma

Yup! Especially if I have more!

Johnnyfiftyfive4 karma

What was your favourite food while in qatar.

What was the first thing you ate with your family when you got back ?

Kristenmj9 karma

Favorite food was Lebanese at Layali. They had this amazing pineapple tabbouleh.

First thing I ate was sushi. Random, I know!

clsbabe4 karma

Can I borrow $10,000.00? Just kidding. Congratulations. Now you can be happy. Also, you might want to consider removing the name of your employer from your post.

Kristenmj10 karma

Can I borrow $10,000.00? :)

I removed employer name, but feel it's pretty easily verifiable since that's part of who I am and it's public knowledge. I also am only talking about my personal experience, which last I checked in the US is okay to do (in Qatar...not so much) (and note, I am not revealing anything confidential about clients or subject to any NDAs).

Not sure if I can be happy now, but at least I can give it a shot. And I was happy at the firm too. I loved my work and job. That is part of what made it so hard.

IfWrongPlsCorrectMe4 karma

Can you tell us more about the mother you helped go back to her country?

Congrats on deciding to leave that horrible life you had. Wish you all the best!

Small suggestion to your boy dolls: Give them super hero apparel so kids can dress them up as cool and badass if they want. Don't have to get a license from DC, Marvel etc. Just your own cape, mask and boots design might probably do the trick.

Kristenmj9 karma

Here's what I just posted on another reply: I am SO EXCITED about the deportation story, actually, because I just received an email from the woman that she was finally able to leave the country yesterday!!!! Here's a quote: "We are finally home! Thank you so much for everything that you have done for me and my son. My family is so grateful. We are all grateful." The woman was arrested after she delivered her first baby at the main private hospital in Qatar. She was taken from the hospital to jail because she could not provide a marriage certificate. The standard penalty for a baby out of wedlock is one year. She spent one year in prison with her baby boy. While there, due to the imprisonment, she defaulted on some loans she had taken out. That resulted in two years more imprisonment for writing "bad checks" (pre-dated checks are required in Qatar for most loans, so if you don't make a payment, the lender tries to cash the check, and writing a bad check is illegal, hence the jail time). Once she was released from jail, she no longer had a job or a valid visa to be in the country. Her son was also illegal. However, she could not leave the country because Qatar had imposed a travel ban due to the outstanding civil cases that had been filed against her in the interim. So when she was released from jail, she had several civil suits pending that amounted to many times the original loan amount due to interest and penalties, and despite having served a criminal sentence, she now had to face the civil suits and could not leave. Her son was stuck there too, illegitimate and unable to go to school. She was living with her cousin and being fed out of the kindness of peoples' hearts. I found out about the case through an anonymous news report on Doha News and contacted the reporter. Although I do not deal with Qatari administrative law, I had done a lot of pro bono work in immigration and administrative legal issues both in the States and in Qatar, and I knew someone who I thought could help her. My firm agreed to take on the case pro bono, and after a few months of meetings with ministry officials and the deportation department, they finally let her leave yesterday! Unfortunately, her case is extremely common, and I have heard many, many similar stories.

I can't say my life was horrible. That's the thing that is making me feel a little crazy. Maybe I did too much at once. Maybe I have no idea what I want to do. Or maybe I just have a really good idea, an awesome family, and want to spend time doing it.

Great idea on the boy dolls. We are going to do some super hero-ey things soon :) For now we wanted to start with same-age and representative of real life kids. But expanding soon!

D3Construct3 karma

That's a commendable direction to take. I cant help but see a weird parallel however with myself. Your post almost reads like a cautionary tale for my own ambitions. So I have to ask; Could you offer any advice or guidance for an aspiring Industrial Engineer/Consultant who has had his share of life (and then some), and is looking for success instead?

Kristenmj6 karma

The key to your question, I think, is how you define success. That's different for everyone. My issue may be that I walked down a path without really understanding what success meant to me. I'm still trying to figure it out.

707RiverRat2 karma

Can you make a few cool toys for older people please?

Also if you meet the guy who invented the Spider-Man wrist-web slinger thingy- buy that dude a beer. He is a badass.

Kristenmj3 karma

You may be surprised to learn that many adults love dolls. It's random to me, but there's a whole world of collectors out there.

Mighty_Patty2 karma

Have you read the book, "Think and Grow Rich" by Napoleon Hill?

Kristenmj1 karma

No - should I?

rushilo2 karma

1- Could you tell us more about Pretrial Rights International? I'm interested in studying law and it seems your organization is doing the very type of work I'd love to do in the future.

2- Every source I check generally says that the further you get from top ranked laws schools, the more difficult it is to find a job in BigLaw following graduation. I don't want to seem like an asshole and focus so much on rankings but I'm sure you remember how much they were emphasized during the admissions process. I see you didn't go to a T25 school and as someone who'll likely end up in a comparable school I want to ask what you think made you a good candidate for what I'm sure was an intensely competitive position?

Kristenmj3 karma

  1. Pretrial Rights International is an NGO I founded with two colleagues at the firm after working on several human rights cases involving people imprisoned for extended periods of time and in violation of basic international human and civil rights. We are currently fundraising to get sufficient money to hire an Executive Director and build the organization further. Our website is

  2. I think biglaw jobs are available for folks in less than T25 schools, but maybe not all of them. Over time, the school you went to becomes less important and your experience and reputation becomes more important. For me, getting into the industry had a lot to do with my class rank (top 5%), interview skills, and success as a summer associate. Probably some luck too.

thewhitecafu2 karma

How do you sleep at night knowing you worked in Qatar and directly profited from the modern day slavery which has built that country and provided the lifestyle you had?

Kristenmj11 karma

I wasn't sleeping tonight. I was definitely naive to the issues of modern day slavery before I went. When I realized to a more full extent what was going on, I worked to get out, and I did. It's hard to say the lifestyle is entirely empty or wrong. I met a lot of hard working people there, trying to contribute to change and trying to take care of their families or make ends meet. Some people were there because they could make a ton of cash. Others were there because they desperately needed the cash. I am glad I spent time there, overall, because now I have a very heightened awareness of the reality of the system (and will be writing a major piece about it). Sometimes if you don't witness a problem firsthand, you can't realize the extent to which it exists and how you either can or cannot contribute to solving it. It also raised my awareness of the values that I have taken for granted in the US. Some of the core freedoms, the basic notions of humanity, and the equal opportunity--although not always perfect or achieved--at least are something we strive for, and something I will always work hard to protect.

NikZaww2 karma

With half of the world animals facing extinction in your lifetime, animals that your children might never see in real life and all of us living in the world on the brink of environmental catastrophe what do you think should be the priorities of each inhabitant of this planet, including yourself and your children once they grow up?

Kristenmj6 karma

I guess this is AMA! This is something I give quite a bit of thought to. I don't know the answer, but mentioned to my husband the other day that one of our kids needs to become an environmentalist so he can tell me. On my own, though, I believe we need to have a major re-think of the way we live and the things we do that impact the environment, especially contributing to climate change. The world is so complex, that it's almost impossible for one person to sit down and change their lifestyle because practically everything we do - even using this computer right now - contribute to energy use and knowing whether our actions have a negative or positive impact on the environment seems quite confusing at the moment.

breezus1 karma

Are you hiring? I'm a graduating senior and want to learn how to make it in the world too.

Kristenmj1 karma

Not hiring right now...not even earning anything myself at the moment!

Mackinstyle1 karma

Did you see money as a high score or as a tool? What about now? Advice?

Kristenmj1 karma

Money is definitely helpful! I just think it's not everything. I am nervous about losing the salary. For sure.

supremedemon1 karma

What kind of law did you practice?

Kristenmj1 karma

International commercial arbitration.

ilyemco1 karma

Did you save a lot of money or was the cost of living high over there (ie did you succumb to lifestyle inflation)?

Kristenmj1 karma

I saved quite a bit and generally lived a modest lifestyle ("modest" definitely being a relative term here). It was difficult to live frugally there, especially with getting in and out requiring steep airfares. But it is definitely possible to save there.

MistaWhiska1 karma

Did you face or see any racism or bigotry in the Middle East? People say it's overflowing in the US but I consider we're more tolerant than non multiracial countries.

Kristenmj1 karma

There was overt racism everywhere in Qatar. You were basically ranked in society by your race. I have become acutely aware of racism having lived there, and I do think it is also very prevalent in the US. That said, our general system in the US, our Constitution, our founding values, and our drive to provide equal opportunity is pretty darn good here. It is not anywhere near perfect (who knows what is perfect), and I am not claiming that, but on a philosophical or goal level, it has some good effect. Especially compared with what I saw when racism runs rampant.

cherry_muncher1 karma

I'm very jealous of your circumstances. What was the food like in Qatar?

Kristenmj1 karma

The food was mostly imported. You could get anything depending on where you went. Lots of health/safety concerns when the temperatures skyrocket in the summer, but generally can get good (but very expensive) food there.

jotatp1 karma

Great story! What was your favorite thing about living in Qatar?

Kristenmj1 karma

The melting pot of people. I loved meeting people from everywhere who were for the most part working hard and raising families, just like me. It was really special.

bestfomert1 karma

Was it worth it?

Kristenmj3 karma

The savings was worth it. The experience was worth it - both from a career perspective and life perspective. The time lost...maybe not, but I'd say overall, yes it was worth it. It is not worth it, though, for me to continue this way.

gethought1 karma

Do you want to see your kids, or do you want to start a toy company?

Kristenmj1 karma

Both! I love working and I love spending time with my kids. I believe in healthy breaks from both.

arthritisankle1 karma

You think you'll have more time for your kids by starting your own business? Man, I hope that works out for y'all.

Kristenmj1 karma

I do. At least, I think at this point I will have more CONTROL in determining my schedule and being able to spend time with my kids. All I know is that in the situation I was in, I was not getting enough time.

Nakedguyinlockerroom1 karma

What law school did you go to? What is your legal area of expertise? How did you end up in Qatar? Are you of Arab descent?

Kristenmj1 karma

Went to American University, focused on international law and arbitration. Firm had an office in Qatar and needed litigators. I am not Arab and do not speak Arabic.

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Kristenmj7 karma

Happy to submit any other proof!