The pitch: A collection of essays detailing the insane, debauched life of a modern American lawyer – during law school, in the office, in the courtroom and after hours.
When I got my copy of the Philadelphia Lawyer’s Happy Hour is for Amateurs, I had some serious apprehensions about reading the book. These basically stemmed from the fact that the cover blurb – the quote that’s supposed to sell the book – is from Tucker Max. I’m not a fan of Max’s writing style or subject matter, and had some concerns that I’d be reading a sound-alike or imitator of the famous blogger.
Luckily, Happy Hour is for Amateurs is in many ways refreshingly different from the other books in the “fratire” genre it gets lumped into. Sure, the book has tons of stories about sex, drugs and general debauchery. The Philadelphia Lawyer (P.L. from here on) has some laugh-out-loud hilarious stories about hooking up with girls in law school, drinking before going to work, bachelor parties and pill-popping before court. If this was all there was to the book, Happy Hour would be an entertaining but ultimately average book, an extended ramble from that guy everyone knows that’s always reliving past exploits. As my friend Bookavore put it, it would be good enough to read but not good enough to recommend.
The book isn’t about the wild nights and blurred days, however. The book is about the insanity and inanity of the corporate world. P.L. candidly writes about the life of a corporate professional, and the desire to find more fulfilling, more enjoyable work. Throughout the book, you can feel yourself struggling along with the author – is a good paycheck and a “career” worth going to a job you hate, a job that drives you to drink and use on the weekends? From office drones to a-hole bosses, the spot-on descriptions of the world of law in Philadelphia almost makes you wonder why P.L. didn’t drink more.
The book is also a fascinating look at the seedy side of American law – something I appreciated as someone who nearly went to law school. The decade the book spans find the author in law school, criminal law, civil litigation and personal injury law, and all are examined with a cynic’s eye. The real nuts and bolts of law – legalese, billable hours, private practices and partners, among other things – make for great reading. Plus, how could a blogger not enjoy the last few chapters, detailing his move from popular web writer to a published author?
A lot of the criticisms aimed at this book are fair – there is a lot of dirty, nasty subject matter, and the author isn’t shy about sex, drugs or decency. This is particularly pronounced in the first half of the book, during those fuzzy years of law school and post-graduation wandering. If you don’t have a stomach for explicit sex and drug stories, it might be tough to push through the first couple chapters. I implore you to read on, because the broad look at corporate America and the focused look at the legal profession are eye-opening, interesting and rediculously amusing.
And if you’re like me and like your humor a little off-color? Grab the book and a stiff drink and enjoy the ride. You’ll be glad you spent a few bucks on the book instead of a few hundred grand on law school.