The Blue-Collar Husband

Grease monkey, originally uploaded to Flickr by Rowan Peter.Do people look down on professional women whose husbands have “blue collar” jobs? Reader C worries about her fiance, a mechanic…

My question is this: I am an aspiring law student who comes from a poor background. I really have no idea how educated people *truly* look at those who have less of an education than them. I am looking at T14 law schools and am very excited, with hopes for southern Biglaw (Richmond, VA). My fiance is a mechanic – he loves his career and would not change it for the world, however, I am worried – will my colleagues judge me because of this? Have you ever seen it be a problem? I hope I don’t sound shallow but I feel like it’s a legitimate concern. I want to know if I should expect anything out of the ordinary, or if the occupation of spouses is nil when it comes to things like raises, promotions, assignments, etc.

First, congratulations to you and your fiance! Whatever I or anyone else may say about this topic, the bottom line here is that as long as you love each other, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. If, when you start work, you find it’s a problem, chances are you’re not with the right employer for you anyway. (Pictured: Grease monkey, originally uploaded to Flickr by Rowan Peter.)

That said, you are likely to encounter some differing views on your husband’s profession. Readers have joked a lot that they would love to be electricians (set your own hours and prices, always in demand, etc.), and my own first thought was, “that’ll be great, because when you start to make real money you and he can buy a franchise or set up his own shop and really start to pave your own way.” But that may assume an ambition that isn’t there on the part of your fiance — maybe he has no desire to ever run his own shop or be a boss/manager. So let’s say he is just a mechanic — does it matter?

I say no, his profession does not matter: a happy spouse is a good thing. (Some bosses may even be more open to hiring a woman who definitely makes more money than her husband because they may see “stay at home dad” written all over him, whether or not that’s true.)

However, other things may have an impact on your career — for example, can you picture him in a tuxedo at a gala dinner? Will he refuse to wear a suit or more business-type clothes when you go to “bring-a-date” firm events? Can he make dinner conversation with people on “educated” topics? On a more basic level, are his table manners and his grammar good (or is he open to improving them)? Will he be understanding of the social games you may have to play, and be willing to support your social requirements at these events? These are the kinds of things that will alienate him (and you) at firm events, and they really come down to one of the main questions (IMHO) of marriage: are you both team players?  Is he a true partner?  If he is, then there should be no problem.  If he isn’t — well, you have bigger problems than what people think of his profession.

Readers, what do you think?  How do people view women with husbands in “blue collar” professions?


  1. Most lawyers (especially myself) are pretty self-absorbed. I could care less what my colleague’s spouses do for a living, so long as they themselves are pleasant and professional at work. And if you work in a place where people look down on you — work hard and do everything you can to find another job in a less toxic work environment. I note on this blog that sometimes there tends to be a theme that I sort of dislike and that is — do everything you can to fit in (e.g. hiding your huge engagement ring to avoid inspiring jealousy), and while I understand some of that — I think too often we women ignore the fact that we DESERVE a healthy work environment that accepts us for who we are. And since we are highly skilled wokers, it doesn’t take too long to find one. Be picky! Good luck to you and your fiance! Wishing you all the best.

    • I’m also growing tired of the “do everything to fit in” mantra. Spending every day trying to be someone fundamentally different than who I am is exhausting and soul-destroying. Been there, done that, will never do it again.

      OP, if your husband-to-be is polite, friendly and able to engage in small talk with your coworkers, his profession should be a non-issue. If he’s able to keep up with you, intellectually speaking, I don’t see why it would be different with your coworkers.

      I’d think long and hard about why you’re worried about this. Is it because you work with jerks who are apt to judge anyone who doesn’t have a certain type of pedigree, or because you’re concerned about fundamental differences between the two of you, intellectually speaking? Coming from a blue-collar background myself, I’d have a very difficult time being around coworkers who would judge me and my family for that, or automatically write us off as less intelligent. But, I know that’s a reality in many locations and firms. Bottom line, as long as you and your spouse are comfortable with where you’re at in life, it really doesn’t matter.

      • All I care about when I meet someone’s spouse is that the person is supportive and affectionate towards their partner. The rest is wholly irrelevant.

        • I second both of these comments. I come from a working class background too and sometimes you need to come home and bitch about all the snobs you work with anyway (this is true especially of law school, i.e. all the whiners whose parents paid for their tuition and rent while I struggled to keep a scholarship and work part time to pay the bills).

          Also, your future coworkers will totally love to have an “in” with an honest mechanic.

  2. Lawyers and law students are a more diverse demographic than you’d think. I’m from a working class background with parents/stepparents in blue-collar jobs. I had a lot of classmates and I have a lot of colleagues whose parents are upper-middle-class or wealthy and who blithely assume everyone is like them. But I have just as many who are from backgrounds like mine, and can relate. And although some colleagues have been surprised to find out that my dad is a union member, I’ve never met anyone who actually cared. And most people count blue-collar workers among their close friends and family.

    • I agree with this comment and AKB’s comment above. I really dont think it matters, it’s no one’s business, and the heart of the matter is your and your spouse’s happiness. that said, i would be prepared for bizarre comments, but nothing more serious or painful than the questions many of us are already used to (the usual, when are you having kids, why would you spend $ on X; why cant you wear a more sensible shoe). based on what i see at my biglaw office, most people’s SOs are lawyers or doctors–my SO is neither, but i doubt anyone cares (though i do get asked all the time what he does for a living, it usually starts with “is your SO a lawyer too?”).

    • Former MidLevel :

      “Lawyers and law students are a more diverse demographic than you’d think.”


      Even those of us who grew up with professional parents aren’t as judgmental as you might think. If, by some chance, you end up in some weird firm where people actually care about what your spouse does, there will be plenty of other options.

      And congrats! Law school (and marriage) are great adventures.

      • “Even those of us who grew up with professional parents aren’t as judgmental as you might think.”

        I grew up in a family where college and a professional career were expected and I know my mom would not be thrilled if I brought home a blue collar guy. (Though his familly background would not matter.) But if I ever have kids I don’t want to be judgemental. They can choose the profession most suited to them. I know a lot of young people from middle class backgrounds dislike the judgementalism of the previous generation and don’t want to be that way.

        If he is comfortable with corporate culture, he’ll probably be fine at your network events. When you feel comfortable, others feel at ease in your company. Few people know all the rules and do everything right. It’s not the faux pas but the worry about it that causes awkwardness. (Some people actually do weird things, take it personally, or get resentful when they feel uneasy.) And as mentioned, there are plenty of middle class people who feel uneasy at corporate networking events; maybe others have a spouse who works in academia, or non-profit who is also used to a different set of people. Being a good listener is also helpful when mingling with different people. Most people are all too happy to be able to talk about themselves.

    • I should also have added that I do know some lawyers who are married to blue-collar workers (both men and women). Often, the spouses are uncomfortable at work events or spending time around lawyers; they aren’t used to dressing up, don’t enjoy being formal, aren’t interested in hearing about people’s jobs (it’s awful, but lawyers do spend a lot of time talking about our jobs), feel (sometimes unwarranted) embarrassment about talking about their own job, etc. It’s not an issue of their not knowing how to act, but rather of their just preferring a different kind of company. Usually the couple can negotiate this somehow, either by the lawyer steering the spouse to talk to colleagues who share interests, or by the lawyer going to events solo, or some other arrangement that works for both of them. But in law school, I did see a couple marriages to break up in part because the non-lawyer hated the law student’s new lifestyle and friends.

      Sometimes there are other lawyers who do something, intentional or unintentional, to make the spouse uncomfortable, like saying “oh, do you work at Supercuts?” to a hairstylist who actually works at a top salon (true story) or similarly patronizing comments. I don’t really think this is any worse than the blue-collar guy who, upon hearing I’m a lawyer, cracks mean-spirited lawyer jokes or gives me a long-winded sob story that ends with asking for free legal advice. Some people are just jerks.

      • Yeah, I agree with this. My fiance is a police officer and when I was in law school, I very rarely took him to school events because he felt so uncomfortable around my law school friends. I also think he took some (probably unintentionally ignorant) comments very personally.

        However, obviously, I wouldn’t trade him for the world. He thinks I’m the most intelligent and driven person in the world, even though I am obviously not, and reminds me that there are more important things in life than grades and other things that only law students care about.

        • My husband was a PO in our old city and is trying to get on the force here in Chicago! I found friends in law school that he enjoyed and I have friends here at the firm that he enjoys (not on a best friend level or anything but is happy to have dinner with). I think it’s great that he does something so different from what I do and I have a lot of respect for the courage and integrity that his job requires (to do well).

        • My boyfriend is a police office too, but as I work with the DA’s office, he has no problem talking shop at our work functions… in fact, he tends to be as up to date on Search Warrant issues, for example, as any of us, as he is the one who gets to write them!

          I’ve always felt that it didn’t matter what others thought about any boyfriend/SO’s occupation, but I personally always knew I couldn’t be with someone who didn’t try to excell at whatever it is they did… for example, if he worked in food services, is he up to date on current food marketing issues, looking at management, etc… any job can be challenging and rewarding, and as long as someone gave it their all, I figured we could have a future. If someone was just happy to ‘get by’ with as little effort as possible, well, not so much.

          Anyway, I’ve worked at a small plaintiff’s firm, a large plaintiff’s firm, and now government, and most of the SO’s of my co-workers have had a variety of occupations (that no one was overly concerned about). As long as you two are good for each other, that’s all that counts!

          • And actually, now that I think about it, given that most of the lawyers I know don’t know DIDDLY SQUAT about cars (I find my own mechanical knowledge is much more extensive than most of my co-workers, male or female, as I’ve alway been a DIYer, with a mechanic union father!), and given that most men, on some level, really like cars, I’m guessing you’ll probably find they’ll be in absolutely AWE over his knowledge on the topic, and love chatting him up at social events!

        • My husband is a federal LEO, and most of the people I work with just think what he does is kind of cool. He never feels uncomfortable around my work colleagues either because he doesn’t see what he does as inferior. He did ask me once before he got the job if I’d mind if he was just a cop instead of a lawyer (he did one year of law school and knew he wanted to be on the other side of the Law & Order ampersand). As long as he’s happy, I don’t care what he does. I think most people would feel the same way, and the ones who don’t and who judge don’t matter anyway.

      • OneMoreThought :

        I second the thoughts about discomfort on the spouses side of things regarding social events. My husband is works in heavy civil construction as a Project Manager … trying to get him properly dressed for a Bar event or other professional outing can be frustrating. But I am sure that this all depends on the personalities of those involved. Mine is just a wee bit “oppositional defiant” and doesn’t see why a suit makes him “appropriate”. Heaven help me.

        • And heaven help me too, in exactly the opposite direction. Not high paid lawyer here. The first time I walked my semi-blue collared spouse into Brooks Brothers, his eyes lit up like a kid in a candy store. I’m the marital money manager, and I’ve had to play money police on his BB wish list. It’s like no honey you don’t actually need the seersucker suit, since you can’t wear it to work, we don’t go to church, and the social scene in this little town is a non-starter. Him: but it’s great I’ll wear it somewhere. Argh.

        • Talkin' Texas :

          Yep, I think the concern for me has always been worrying about my husband being comfortable at certain events. We just made a deal years ago that some events were must attends, and others, I would go solo. In all the years we have done this, I have only had one person at an event make a “slight” toward my husband being blue collar. This was not from a co-worker or boss. Never had a boss or co-worker be concerned. I was raised blue collar and tend to find myself much more comfortable in those settings, too. If you love your husband and like your co-workers it’ll all work out.

    • I’m backing J up 100%. Growing up in fairly affluent suburbs/going to a private college, I always had the same fear you did – I was never able to keep up with the Joneses, and I was constantly afraid classmates looked down on me. As an adult, I’ve learned that some people will never understand, some people will totally understand, and some people will think you’re the lucky one! As long as YOU’RE happy with your fiance, and he doesn’t make it an issue, no one else will either.

      Good luck with everything!

  3. Diana Barry :

    I actually don’t know anyone who has a blue collar husband. Just thinking through the people I know, there are a few college professors, a few entrepreneurs/tech guys, an IT management person, etc. I for one wouldn’t look down on anyone else based on their occupation – that’s more about how I get along with the person in general. ;)

  4. Really interesting topic! My husband’s only a little bit blue-collar. You wouldn’t see him on “Dirty Jobs”, but he’s not in a well-educated field, either (he didn’t finish college, and recently switched from retail management to cable installation.*) We don’t really have any of the problems that Kat mentioned in the last paragraph of the post. In fact, during my clerk days, I would constantly find myself annoyed when folks started asking him what type of law he practiced or where he was going to law school.

    Anyhow, I haven’t found that his lack of “professional’ career is a problem at all. As I’ve said here before, the only time I feel at all weird about it seems to be when I mention it to young, professional women, who sometimes give me an odd look, particularly when I mention that we plan on him staying home w/ the kids. (Older professional women seem a lot more “right on, girl!” about it, and males don’t seem to react at all.) I couldn’t care less about their opinons, other than to find them a little bit strange/amusing, so no worries here.

    *BTW, the cable installation, which includes internet and phone, is crazy complicated. I have no doubt that his job is every bit as intellectually demanding as mine. Anything where you manage people (and he was great at that) is no joke, too.

    • Can't wait to quit :

      Good for your husband. I was very impressed with our recent Verizon Fios installer, who actually solved the problems he enountered as he did the job (I kind of expected he would say someone else needed to come out on a different day, etc.) and realized before it was too late that he had disconnected our neighbor’s phone line. Definitely not a job for dummies or those who don’t give a hoot.

  5. First — I don’t think his profession matters that much. Second — I’m not sure how much it would come up. My husband has a classified job, one where I can’t really say his title, what he does or where he does it. We have to be pretty vague about what he does. Since I don’t volunteer info, very few people have ever asked me more than the basic. I usually say he works for the gov’t, and only very rarely does someone ask more (what agency? etc). There are plenty of ways to steer polite conversations to topics you prefer, if that’s the route you choose to take. Not that you need to … he loves what he does, most people drive cars and should be pretty darned grateful to have a good mechanic around. :-)

    This has never been an issue in raises, promotions, etc. Nor should it be — those come based on *your* merits, not your spouse’s.

    • Good luck! :

      Ooooh! A spy for a hubby. Cool.

    • Cool. In my other alternate reality (the one where I am not an electrician), I am a spy. I like to think I’d be pretty good at it (though in reality, the government hasn’t asked for my help yet, sigh).

    • Ha they dont ask more because anytime someone answers “the government” you know thats cia. (if your in dc area) I always wonder why they just dont say cia.

      Topic at hand- honestly I don’t know why your even thinking about this. Is it just to “be prepared” because I’m assuming your not going to drop him to pursue big law. My hubby is blue collarish. He didnt like law school events because a lot of law students are terrible but every one that meets him loves him (one time he talked to the gunner of all gunners for like an hour. he found a fellow comic book fan). Attorneys all seem to like him at events but I don’t make him go to many (he hates suits and tuxes but will be a good sport for events). To be honest Im more worried about your fiance havign to deal with biglaw than they dealing with him :) good luck on the application process!

      • also for somereason i thought the picture was of a flying monkey. I did not see oil spill

        • I saw a flying monkey, too. Actually it kind of looks more like a chimp.

          If you have friends in DC who “work at Commerce” and serve on a lot of “trade delegations” – spies. Kind of kidding, and I wouldn’t want to out anyone, but living in DC does make watching movies like Fair Game, and Tinker,Tailor…, a lot more interesting.

          • Dudes, it’s a grease monkey! Like, what some people call a mechanic? Took me a while to get it too!

          • Right thats the thing. If you arent high enough to have a cover story and just say “the government” I know where you work haha. and a big ohhhh to the grease monkey I thought I was failing the what do you see here test.

      • One of my friends works for a three letter agency. She can’t tell us which one, but she can tell us what city she works in, and there’s only one based there. It’s so silly.

        • Whereas some wives of three letter or more agencies can’t keep their mouths shut. In an effort to one-up each other and neighbors, they’ve blabbed about their FBI agent, special agent, etc husbands. In addition to the threat to nat’l security, they really need to understand that they’re making themselves a potential target…

          • they are idiots then. i’m from a family of this type of stuff and outing people puts you and your loved ones at risk.

            ps they aren’t all spies… lots of people doing classified stuff are analytical back office- accountants etc.- it’s what they see/know that makes it secret.

    • I always tell people my husband works in waste management.

  6. I have a blue collar husband. I was a lawyer in BigLaw and it was definitely awkward, I won’t lie. It may have just been the specific BigLaw firm that I was at, but it certainly felt toxic to me. People looked down on him because of his job and, actually, we did get the comment more than once about how we could “possibly afford” to “live our lives” given his “career choice.” Offensive and kind of uncalled for. I moved to a small/mid-sized law firm and the entire firm has been incredibly accepting and warm to him and he has even told me that he feels welcome at the social gatherings.

    • You’re not alone. I have a Blue Collar husband, and I was in BigLaw and it was definitely awkward and people were condescending and I left. Working at a smaller firm has made all the difference in the world.

      Also, there’s different kind of ‘blue-collar’ here, that is an important distinction. There are workers whose jobs don’t require college degrees. And then, there are workers whose jobs require them to shower before they meet you for dinner. My husband (and this fiance) are in the latter group. I think there is a distinction, at least in BigLaw.

      My husband is a brilliant man, and in a way I’m glad to see he’s found what he loves to do (and is much happier than I am as an attorney, even as a ‘happy’ attorney now). It was heartbreaking to watch people look down on him and talk down on him as a result, and when I looked at what BigLaw was adding to my life, and what he was adding to my life – it was pretty easy to see which one to run from.

      • First Time Commenter :

        Echoing the “you are not alone.” I am not a lawyer, but work in a field where most people don’t know anyone in a blue collar field (beyond when they have to hire them). My husband is in a blue collar job that requires a shower before you go to dinner.

        We have been in happy hours where people have asked him what he does (always the first question here) and literally turned to walk away after he answers. Their assumption: he could not possibly have anything to add to their lives. I have had people say to me things like, “Wow, I didn’t realize someone with a job like your husband’s would be interested in reading.” The advantage of that kind of behavior is that they have identified themselves as people not worth spending any time with or on.

        My advice is to make sure your relationship is rock solid and get good at tuning out the jerks. If he doesn’t enjoy events, only ask him to go to really important ones (or none, if you are okay with that). The last thing is, find a social group outside of work where people aren’t jerks about what he does.

        • Yep, same here. My firm is actually more laid-back than most, so I’ve been a little surprised by some of the comments I’ve received since I started dating a plumber who owns rental properties (and who, FWIW, makes more than I do as an attorney). It has improved since my co-workers actually bothered to attempt to get to know him and found they had more in common than not, but I got more than a few, “Well, as long as you’re happy…” type comments and more than one comparison to my former boyfriend who works for a large firm in the same city. It has made me see the people I work with in a whole new light.

          • @SW, I’m not in the legal field but reading your comment and the previous one makes me think that some lawyers may be educated but they are extremely narrow minded and conceited. Wow! Degrees don’t make a person interesting, that comes from their personality and character.

    • Unfortunate, but true :

      I know several firms that would be like this–not accepting of the job. Hopefully Reader C and others like her can get a feel for the firm through the interviewing process, because they aren’t all like that.

    • People looked down on him because of his job and, actually, we did get the comment more than once about how we could “possibly afford” to “live our lives” given his “career choice.”

      All I know is if you do get comments like this I’m fairly sure the reply is a haughty sniff and a drippingly sarcastic Downton-Abbey style “Oh, good. Let’s all talk about money.

      • Don’t be defeatist, dear. It’s very middle class.

      • MeliaraofTlanth :

        That reminds me, I’ve been meaning to express my deep love for Downton Abbey in the comments at some point, just in case someone was looking for new tv shows to be addicted. Because seriously, it’s amazing. Maggie Smith. Snarky comments. Go watch now.

        (As to the original poster, you made a BigLaw salary and they seriously asked how you could possibly afford to live their lives? Would they have asked that if you spouse stayed home with the kids instead? Ugh, people).

        • I share your deep love of Downton Abbey. Can’t wait for tonight’s episode.

    • I’d bet your blue collar husband and the above-referenced mechanic make far more than a college professor, fwiw. It’s classism, pure and simple. And ugly.

  7. “Just a mechanic”? “Are his table manners and his grammar good”? Wow! I wasn’t aware that good table manners required a college or graduate degree. Apparently the reader has a right to be concerned about other lawyers’ assumptions.

    • No kidding. These were my thoughts as well.

      FWIW, my husband is a stay-at-home dad (albeit one with a master’s degree; it’s just what works best for us and what we both prefer). It works great for us. And he does feel a little intimated at firm events, but I expect that would be true no matter what his background was… they ARE intimidating, for me too.

      • *intimidated*

        See, lawyers don’t have the corner on spelling and grammar either!

      • agree with all of this… my SO thinks the lawyers are intimidating too and more or less dreads the occassional invitation to a social event, but at the same time is a very good sport (and btw- these social gatherings we always talk about are pretty ficitional and uncommon in my experience. people would have you thinking that lawyers and their SOs are constantly at cocktail parties. even when events do come up, SOs are usually not invited. even our biglaw holiday party is employee-only since the recession. generally, it’s more like i’m at my desk all night and the SO is at home saying “you said you’d be home an hour ago, where are you?”)

      • agree with all of this… my SO thinks the lawyers are intimidating too and more or less dreads the occassional invitation to a social event, but at the same time is a very good sport (and btw- these social gatherings we always talk about are pretty ficitional and uncommon in my experience. people would have you thinking that lawyers and their SOs are constantly at parties. my reality is that even when events do come up, SOs are usually not invited. even our biglaw holiday party is employee-only since the recession. generally, it’s more like i’m at my desk all night and the SO is at home saying “you said you’d be home an hour ago, where are you?”)

        Read more:

        • Black-tie? :

          Totally agree re the lack of social gatherings! I posted about this below. I think this concern is so overblown. In my experience, most biglaw associates are not bringing their spouses to many, if any events (maybe the firm holiday party at best, but as you said, many firms have cut that back to a less formal and open door affair in the past few years).

          • It’s the not really firm related but partner related stuff where I see black tie, etc. Usually pet fundraisers where you either go to fill a table (a spouse with a tux if you’re female often means you’re a favorite last-minute invite), or you have to dig into your own pocket to make a partner happy. It’s actually kind of gross when you think about it.

          • Maybe not big formal firm gatherings, but as an associate my husband regularly attends recruiting events with me so he was a lot of social events during the summers, plus the occasional business development dinner or firm party throughout the year. So I do think it’s a legitimate concern, especially as a summer associate.

        • Also agree about the lack of social gatherings, once you’re working. I hardly ever socialize with work colleagues outside the office, and when I do, it’s rarely with spouses/significant others. To the OP: I don’t think this will matter much when you’re working, and shouldn’t affect raises/promotions at all. It’s possible it could even help you – people will probably assume you will be the bread winner, and therefore are less likely to quit if/when you have children. (I want to be clear that I don’t think this is appropriate to think about any woman, regardless of what her spouse does. But I do think many people still think along these lines, unfortunately.) My husband actually makes a lot less than me, and I think I have benefited a little by the assumptions people make about my career plans now that we have children. They know it is just not an option for me to ever not work – my career is the one that will determine the financial health of our family.

        • It seems a little naive to think only about firm-sponsored social gatherings. Developing your own client relationships are a huge part of career building in my line (financial services) and it would be kidding yourself not to acknowledge that it helps to have a spouse who supports this or even better, enables it with his own circle of professional contacts.

    • One of my relatives is a long-distance truck driver. Who spends his shifts driving his rig, listening to a) BBC news, b) books on tape, or c) various other news programs on satellite radio. I might know more about the law, but i swear he knows more about everything.else.

      • This sounds like my uncle, my grandpa, my neighbor and my BFF’s dad. All blue-collar men who are among the most well-read, intelligent people I know.

        • backtowork :

          This is what I was thinking. The husband of one of my good friends from law school is an electrician. She worked at BigLaw, then went solo. We loved it when he showed up at BigLaw parties, because he was so much more interesting to talk to than all the people who did exactly the same thing we did! Also, it didn’t hurt that he was fabulously charming, which had absolutely nothing to do with his level of formal education.

          • This was my experience with my husband. He was a teacher while I was in law school and my first few years as an associate. The lawyers loved to talk to him because his life was different than what everyone else was doing. What is far more important than his job, as others have mentioned, are his social skills in event settings. Before my first summer associate gig, a friend’s husband sat my husband down and told him he had to be “on” at the recruiting events just as much as I did. So regardless of what your SO does, it’s important for them to go into those events prepared to be friendly and social, dressed appropriately and with excellent manners. I was a mentor to a summer associate who’s husband I could not stand and who constantly said the wrong thing, especially around partners. She still got an offer, but people would avoid her at recruiting events if her husband was there. My husband, on the other hand, helped me talk to people who I was having trouble getting in with. I swear he was friends with more attorneys and SOs than I was! Obviously not everyone will have that luck, but my point is, if your SO is not social, you need to work on that before bringing him to firm events.

          • B., this is my husband exactly (see my post below) – lacks the social skills necessary for the kinds of work events my company has. So, I never include him. Too risky.

            Sad but true.

    • This was my response as well – disappointed in the tone and prejudical assumptions, Kat.

    • Leaving aside the “just a mechanic” comment, I think Kat’s point was that a spouse’s social skills are more important in the context of the BigLaw world than his/her occupation, whatever it might be. I agree it could have been worded a bit more delicately.

    • The letter-writer did not even state that her fiance didn’t go to college. Unless Kat has more info than she posted, then for all we know, he DOES have a college degree–he’s just *less* educated because he didn’t go further than that (law school or other grad degree).

    • Actually I dated one mechanic shortly when I was younger and he had terrible table manners and I definitely felt like I couldn’t take him everywhere, and that was when I was like 20. All the mechanical engineers I’ve dated have been fine though.

      It may be more a generational thing, a lot of my parents generation never went to college but has fine manners and grammar, but I don’t see that in many of today’s non college grads, and my younger brother has plenty of them. My younger brother didn’t graduate college, but he has excellent manners, has done freelance writing and has awesome mechanic skills (though he’s never been a paid mechanic.)

      • I think that good manners and grammar are just not that common anymore, period, not just among non-college grads.

        • hmm, as a list of coworkers runs through my head, I concede you are correct. But really, grammar got grilled into my head (and my brother’s) at a young age, so college really had nothing to do with it.

        • MeliaraofTlanth :

          coworkers at a work-related dinner I went to were surprised when I knew which napkin and glass were mine on a circular table (they did not). They decided I had good manners because I was originally from the south.

          • SF Bay Associate :

            Obviously, you don’t need this silly tip MeliaraofT, but for me, it’s got to be B-M-W! bread – meal – water. You can also make an “ok” symbol with each hand. Your left hand makes a B, for bread, and your right hand makes a D, for drink. Thanks, Girl Scouts.

          • MeliaraofTlanth :

            yep, bmw was how I was taught to remember it:-) It’s actually amazingly useful. I actually learned this in college in what was basically a “manners for networking” dinner/class. My mother had tried drilling it into my head as a child, but for some reason it never stuck. (It also was a lightbulb realization when I realized the knife, fork, and spoon went on the side of the plate that corresponds to the hand you use them with in european-style eating (ie, no switching your fork to your right hand))

          • I do the lowercase b and d with my hands. So useful.

          • This was part of my Girl Scouts etiquette badge! I’ll never be confused about place settings. Thanks, Girl Scouts!

      • I had a friend from law school who had the WORST table manners – and he was a highly educated law student that graduated top of his class! I’m not talking, “oops I used the wrong fork” bad table manners. I mean smacking your lips, chewing with your mouth open, and using your hand as a napkin bad table manners. I think it’s a parenting (or in my case, grandparenting) issue. We ended up dragging the poor kid to every etiquette dinner we could find in an attempt to help him. All that resulted was that now he knew not to do the stuff around partners and prospective employers, but that didn’t mean lunch with him was any better! :)

    • I don’t think that good table manners require a college or graduate degree, but my husband’s blue-collar, working-class family does not value table manners or other etiquette-based niceties, and do not value or pay attention to social norms (e.g. don’t talk politics, money; don’t ask personal questions). As a result, DH never learned these things and does not have that sense of boundaries and proprieties that I use daily in my corporate work environment and which is important (to me) vis-a-vis my relationships with colleagues and superiors at work.

      Although he is a college-educated professional (he is a school teacher), I never attend work events with him because he is too much of a loose cannon in these ways.

  8. Marketing Question :

    I am an attorney working in a small firm with big clients for a small firm with no partners and no partnership track. The associate attorneys have been asked to market and are being used for marketing purposes.

    Question: When marketing, what are my obligations for self-promotion vs. firm promotion? I can clarify this question if necessary, and may also post on a later thread. Thank you for your comments.

    • Clients hire attorneys, not law firms. Market yourself, as part of your firm (if that makes sense). It sounds like where you are now won’t have room to grow your career unless I am reading your post wrong, so think about that as you aim your marketing efforts.

      • Marketing Question :

        For clarification, I have a very diverse background and can do many things, while the firm I work for is highly specialized.

        • Oh, in that case I think you have to stick with the specialized area unless you get the go-ahead from your boss. I’d still market yourself, as part of the firm.

          As a side-track from your original post, the specialized firm may not be the best fit for you if you don’t want to focus on one specialty. But that may just be me reading more into this than is justified.

  9. FYI, my mechanic drives a fairly expensive BMW, and given what my last auto repair bill was, I can see why. If anyone ask, hubby works in the automotive industy. If anyone gives you attitude, they can f&@k themselves! The bigger problem that you two need to address, however is finances and expectation on how to raise kids. If you do not make significantly more money than him this will not be a problem. If you do, you need to make sure that he does not have an attitude regarding this and that the two of you make joint decisions regarding finances. He has not been to college or grad school, so you need to come to an agreement now about what the kids educational expectations will be! (ie private vs public schooling and college savings plans)

    • I agree with desigirl. The main challenges you may face in your relationship are attitudes to money, if you make much more. Other expectations include splitting responsibilities like childcare. Sometimes even when the woman is supportive, the man’s ego gets in the way. People might be welcoming but HE may feel like he doesn’t fit in.

    • No joke. When one of my friends was interviewing, she asked about family-friendly policies and was told “Oh, we assumed your husband would stay home with the kids.” Her husband has a low-paying job, which he loves. They were both offended that the firm just assumed he would quit when kids came along.

  10. My dad was a line worker at an automotive factory and my mom was a waitress. I worked my way through college and law school as a waitress, a copy girl and a clerk at a university bookstore. My husband is a (college educated) realtor. I work mostly with folks who come from more affluent, white-collar backgrounds with professional spouses My advice to you is to never hide who you are, where you came from, or who you married. These are not things to be ashamed of or apologize for; they simply make up your personal history. For what it’s worth, my coworkers couldn’t care less about any of these things. In fact, I’ve found that my blue collar perspsective has been well-received by my colleagues, clients, judges and juries. Don’t sweat this.

    • Another S :


    • Sinistra – Awesome advice. Let the haters eat cake!

      In my experience, I have only once in my life heard someone make a comment about the career of someone’s significant other. Everyone I was with was completely appalled, found the speaker to be a total turd for what they said, and ultimately, it made the pretentious/ judgmental jerk look awful. Good, “real” people won’t care what your significant other does for a living and these people can be found in law.

    • I totally agree with this comment. I’m sort of in a similar situation and I have not found it to be a problem at all in the sense you asked about. The two things I have found to be somewhat difficult (but not necessarily bad): (1) he has little tolerance for putting up with the tools that we in the legal industry have simply become used to and (2) sometimes it would be nice to have someone who worked similarly awful hours so that I didn’t feel so guilty about working late all the time. Other than those things though, everything else is a plus (ability to steer conversations away from law and work, someone down to earth to keep you grounded, a complete lack of that elitist air so many lawyers have). All of this likely applies while you’re in law school too!

  11. Anonylawyer :

    I’ve met some people in BIGLAW with blue collar husbands, but it isn’t very common. BIGLAW is a judgmental place, but it will only be a problem if you let it become one (i.e. if you actually care what other people think). BIGLAW is the type of place where they judge you if you went to a tier 3 law school and not T-14.

    • “BIGLAW is the type of place where they judge you if you went to a tier 3 law school and not T-14.”

      THIS. Also, I know quite a few biglaw attorneys in Richmond and they work entirely too hard to be petty over a colleague’s spouse’s profession.

    • Westwood Mom :

      Agree with this. There are probably more “snobby” or “judgmental” people in prestigious jobs because the prestige is what attracts them. There are also normal people. However, there is no reason it should be a problem for you, at worse, it may annoy you and/or your husband.

    • a passion for fashion :

      not everyone in biglaw is like this. my husband and I are both in biglaw and both come from blue-ish collar backgrounds (i.e., our parents were not really blue collar, but all of our grandparents and aunts and uncles were about as blue collar as it gets — think iron workers, plane manufacturers, and truck drivers). sure, some people are going to judge, but i think you will find that anywhere, just the topic of judgment will be different. And in biglaw, that will vary by location.

  12. My step dad drove a city bus for 30 years. My mother was in-house lawyer VP of corporate compliance for a fortune 500 building products company. It would be interesting to ask her, but I think that there was very little downside on her end. He just wasn’t built to have a desk job, though after he was discharged from the air force he got his college degree going to night school and working during the day.

    After he retired, he would often travel with her to the board of directors meetings, etc. There were only two women who go to those meetings for the company, and the other one wasn’t married, so that meant my step dad was the only man on the spouse’s activities that were arranged while the meetings were going on. The wives. loved. him. He is such a sweet guy, up for a morning of shopping or whatever was planned. He was raised in very poor circumstances (he didn’t have electricity or indoor plumbing the first 10 years of his life, and he’s 65) but is very bright.

    It was actually a great pairing, economically, because while my mom made more money, my step-dad was union and had ridiculous benefits. My mom was able to retire earlier because they don’t have to worry about health insurance.

    I think as long as the relationship is sound, the reader should side-eye any classist or ignorant comments from others.

  13. I have a blue collar boyfriend and we are planning on getting married. My criteria for a romantic partner was someone who I loved like crazy, loved me like crazy, smart, strong work ethic and an all around good person. My guy is that — he’s a paramedic in a major city, and his job is a great conversation starter. It’s never been an issue professionally, colleagues and bosses think what he does is cool. My guy thinks I’m great and is my biggest cheerleader. It’s incredible to be with a man who is not threatened by my career. He can talk to anyone, if I ask him to come to professional events he will, but I also don’t drag him along to every lawyer event.

    • I don’t really think of paramedic as blue collar job.

      • No, given that you have to have a bachelor’s degree to even get into training program, I’d say it’s very much not a blue collar job. I’m not trying to be bitchy, though. Dani, it sounds like you’ve found a great guy!

    • Great criteria!

      I can’t really get into the mindset of someone who would frown upon a blue-collar or “non-corporate/non-lawyer” job. DH and I are both corporate types and “white-collar,” and yet we’d both be bored to death at each other’s respective office parties and are relieved that our respective companies do not invite spouses to work social events. It’s more about the work milieu and enforced socialization with people you probably don’t like that much anyways, than about class issues.

      Also, income-stream diversity is a good idea these days.

  14. Another associate in my former BigLaw office was married to a guy who was in college–they were both about 26, but he hadn’t gone straight to college after high school. He started at a community college when he was 25 and then went to a 4-year university; he did not plan on grad school.

    I didn’t notice any lawyers being gossipy, snarky, etc. about his educational path and career choice. But HE seemed uncomfortable at firm events when people ask (as everyone does): “what kind of work do you do?” I think he was embarrassed that it took him a little longer to figure out what he wanted to do in life (and, thus, he was just going to college) and his lower paying future job. If your man is secure with and confident about what he does, that should come through when he talks to your co-workers and hopefully everyone will be a-ok.

    Finally, I think we’re seeing an increase in the number of men who have less prestigous jobs than their female mates (stay at home dads, men who teach married to female lawyers, your fiance, etc.). Hopefully this will decrease any snarkiness amongst lawyers about what kinds of jobs men have. After all, how many of the male lawyers were married to women who made a lot less money than they did–and no one thought that was odd…

    • Anonymous :

      It’s too bad stay-at-home parent is lower status. I’ve been a lawyer and a full-time caregiver to my daughter, and the latter is much, much harder. Besides, I can’t think of anything that could be nearly as important as caring for another human being in the early stages of development.

      • I aboslutely agree! I hope my comment didn’t sound like I don’t value stay-at-home parents–I am probably their biggest supporter. Although I don’t have kids, my mom stayed home full time and I think it is the best sacrifice parents can make for kids. But, it is considered less impressive by BigLaw lawyers–especially when it’s a man staying home.

        • Anonymous :

          No, I didn’t take your comment that way at all … I was just lamenting. Thank goodness for the mothers who so selflessly raised so many of us (and in my case, convinced me at a young age that housewifery wasn’t for me)!

  15. I came from very well educated but NOT very well off parents (if you know what I mean). I’d say the hardest part about being in Big Law when you are coming out of a different social set is getting used to networking and business development.

    As far as the husband the mechanic — I’m not sure this would be as much as a liability as you think. (a) My experience with many attorneys is that they are sometimes in awe of people with actual “skills” in the real world — like being able to fix a car for example. And (b) almost every male big law partner likes cars. Its just a fact of life. So if your husband can have an intelligent conversation with them about the differences in the transmissions between a porsche and a bmw and a mercedes (or whatever) they’d probably love him forever.


    • Also, my husband has a more “high powered” job than I do and he HATES networking events. I only subject him to the Christmas party. Otherwise I basically leave him home. So, this may be more of a guys not wanting to hang out with a bunch of strangers thing than anything else.

    • SF Bay Associate :

      Yet again, I agree 100% with TCFKAG. I am always so much more impressed by someone with actual SKILLS which are useful in real life, as opposed to lawyer/business/marketing skills … wow, you know how to rebuild an engine? fly a commercial jet? create a house from a pile of wood and some nails? You are awesome!!! All I know how to do is move virtual paper around. The person with real skills is the guy everyone wants when marooned on the desert island, not me.

      • SF Bay Associate — next time I’m in the bay area, we should meet in the real world. I feel like we could compare our sparkly wedding shoes and discuss our dorky fantasy novel habits. It would be grand.

    • Exactly what I just typed up above…! (about being in awe of a mechanic and most men liking cars)! Guess I should read the entire thread first!

      • Since I can’t reliably tell the difference between the Mercedes and the BMW logo 3/4 of the time, these conversations were largely lost on me. I would usually just bust out that I thought the Porsche Cayenne was an abomination and that got me far enough to make a good impression.


        Also, I don’t know how to check my own tire pressure. God…how did I become such a cliche.

  16. Threadjack – just wanted to let everyone in Boston know that we’re having our usual third Thursday (we postponed it this month) meetup tonight at 7 PM at The Vault on Water St. Stop by and have a drink. The reservation is under Corporette.

    • Wait there’s a Boston get together? I’m reading this at 8 p.m. so obviously missed it. is it always at the Vault? This is a thrilling discovery! How will I know when and where for next time?!?

  17. FWIW, I did read once on this site a commenter saying that she thought women in BigLaw were sometimes hurt by the opposite problem: husbands with very high-paying jobs. She said that she noticed that when the economy crashed, it was those women who were fired first, presumably because they could “afford” to be let go.

    • Sometimes it seems that women have it rough both ways. If you have an SO with a low-stress career, that can be tremendously helpful (if they are willing to help out with errands and stuff), but there are some employers who look down on this. If you have an SO with a high-stress career like yours, he usually works with a bunch of men that have stay-at-home wives that can assist with the day-to-day stuff. Dual high-income helps, but not everything can be outsourced. If only we could all hire wives to help us out sometimes.

  18. 1st year - mid-size :

    Related Thredjack

    I am a female associate at a predominately male law firm. Most of the attorneys in my firm are married, and very few of the men have wives who work outside the home. Several of the wives have J.D.s but quit practicing upon having babies.

    I have heard whispered stories about “the one attorney who got pregnant here” and am fully prepared to move if the firm culture feels hostile when I decide I can no longer drown out the ticking my biological clock.

    But my question is this: While I’m practicing and not thinking about babies at all, what do I do to rebut the assumptions that upon conception, I will instantly become a SAHM?

    • When I was a first year associate in BigLaw, numerous partners asked me when my then-husband and I would have kids (we were then both 26). I told everyone that we weren’t going to have kids, which was our true plan. But they kept asking. Intent on becoming partner and concerned that people thought I would have kids and so would not give me the kind of cases I needed to prove myself for partner, I hit on the following plan.

      When a very senior associate, who was close to the partners and who was known for being totally indiscreet and a terrible gossip, asked me about kids, I told him that my then-husband and I could not have kids. He immediately jumped into the embarassed “Oh, I’m so sorry” mode, saving me from yet another lecture about how having children changes your life and is the most important thing we creatures can do on G-d’s green earth.

      Also, no one at that firm ever asked me again about having kids. Ever. I became a partner. I never had kids. (My then-husband may have since had them, who knows.)

      In your case, it seems that you do plan to have kids. Some day. In a way that will not necessarily affect your work. People will not believe that. Or can’t understand it.

      So you just have to lie and then prove them wrong later.

    • Dear 1st year –

      I practice in a very large town (pop. ~40K), and there is not a single female attorney who has remained in practice after having kids. There are around 40 female attorneys and 200+ male attorneys. So in a way, as I’m both practicing and trying for babies, I’m getting ready to go where no woman has gone before in my Southern town. So while my firm is pretty great, it will be unexplored territory. I’ve given this issue a lot of thought, and while I don’t profess to know everything, here’s the conclusions I’ve come to:

      Thankfully, I don’t have to rebut too far in advance – but it’s helpful for me to talk about how this is a client I hope to still be working with in ten years, etc, when I’m reviewing something with a partner.
      You can’t rebut the assumption. While pregnant, you can continue to talk about what you’ll do when you return after maternity leave, and you can continue showing up, but you can’t control what they’ll think.
      I’m obviously not telling my employer I’m trying to get pregnant. Once pregnant, I plan on announcing and clearly stating my return to work following pregnancy.
      You have to figure out what hostile means for you. For me, I’m ready for commentary, but I will go to battle over not getting good projects.

      That said, I’ve decided to go for the pregnancy/babies while I have less client responsibility, which I know is against the traditional wisdom. But I’ve decided if I have to take off 6-8 weeks, or feel less than my best, I want to do it before I’m solely responsible for major cases.

    • I was in the position that we knew my husband would stay home when we had kids, so any time the opportunity arose, especially with a partner, I tried to make an offhand comment about how he’d be staying home, I couldn’t handle not working, etc. This only works if you’re in a similar situation, and I know it isn’t fair for me to take advantage of it when it hurts my friends with spouses who also work, but as has been stated many times on corporette, it is extremely difficult to make partner in biglaw with a spouse who works similar hours. I had my kids as a young associate, so I have to do everything I can to make it clear to the partners that I’m coming back each time and fully intend to stick around for the long run. There are way too many women who come in, work for a few years, take advantage of the awesome insurance and maternity leave policies, and then leave, so I feel like I am constantly trying to make it clear that I am not one of them. Anyone who knows me well knows this is obvious, but it’s important for me to get this across to the people who only see another pregnant associate walking around and make assumptions.

    • 1st year - mid-size :

      Thanks for the feedback, ladies! It’s a pretty crazy issue to navigate. I am constantly reminding my husband not to talk within the legal community about our plans to have kids eventually, and then within the church community we don’t mention that I have zero intention of quitting the practice of law.

      A little sad that the time haven’t adjusted, but women who are willing to post here and encourage the rest of us will help; I’m sure of it!

  19. I think it only matters if YOU think it matters. In my biglaw firm, spouses of the attorneys have very diverse professions. In my experience, it actually can be a talking point for you with the senior partners, if only because it gives you a distinguishing characteristic – i.e., you aren’t just another associate married to another associate, your husband’s profession makes you a little unique. Who knows, your partners may start using your husband for their auto needs? I could especially see this happening in a smaller city.

    The only issue to be aware of is that if you are embarrassed, people will pick up on this. If you try to explain his job (“well, it’s very skilled and he’s very good and he got straight As in school, but was always passionate about putting things together but didn’t like engineering but could have become an engineer . . . “), people will sense your discomfort and probably avoid the topic. Instead, just unashamedly and unapologetically own it. (“Yep! He’s a mechanic, and he loves it.”) Seriously, no one would judge that, and as mentioned above, people will probably comment on how he probably has great hours and is making a killing. But, only if you seem proud of him.

    • Agree with all of this!

    • Totally agree about being unapologetic about it. A girlfriend of mine told me (and several others in our circle of friends) about her new boyfriend with the preface that “he’s just a bartender but he OWNS part of the bar so don’t judge him.” I wouldn’t have judged him and was just glad this friend had met someone … but it gave me the sense that SHE was uncomfortable with his occupation.

    • I agree with this. I wonder, however, to what extent the posters who feel this way are located in bigger cities and/or more progressive areas. I noticed that the OP was looking to end up in Richmond. I tend to think of Richmond as a more conservative environment, and wonder whether her experience might be different.

      My husband, thankfully, is not a lawyer. I love that he brings a totally different perspective to our discussions. I wouldn’t trade him for any lawyer in the world!

  20. This is interesting. One of my co-clerks mentioned to me recently that she felt out of place all the time in law school because she was from a blue collar background. It seemed to really bother her and make her resent our law school for choosing people too similar to one another. I didn’t feel this way, but I came from one of those college-educated but lower middle class (cash strapped!) families, so it was a little different. I think maybe being in a sorority in college exposed me to so many rich people that I was immune to it by law school. I don’t know.

    • Going to law school from a not business professional background (stay at home mom, engineer dad, friends parents all professors) was really, really tough. I didn’t know all of the subconscious things that most people from that background know automatically. Until I started reading corporette my 2L year, I was convinced that pant suits were more formal than skirt suits, and that’s the most minor of the problems I had (open toed shoes aren’t appropriate for business unless you know your office?). There’s a way of moving in the world as a business professional that’s largely subconscious and very difficult to adapt to, especially if you’re not the most socially adept person in the world to begin with.

      • This. My parents are firmly middle class, but neither worked in a professional setting and certain things about working for a large (especially multinational) business that are hard to pick up and just aren’t addressed in college!
        Thank god I had a mentor in a previous position who was from a similar background and very kindly brought me up to speed on a number of social norms I wasn’t aware of.

  21. “However, other things may have an impact on your career — for example, can you picture him in a tuxedo at a gala dinner? Will he refuse to wear a suit or more business-type clothes when you go to “bring-a-date” firm events? Can he make dinner conversation with people on “educated” topics? On a more basic level, are his table manners and his grammar good (or is he open to improving them)? Will he be understanding of the social games you may have to play, and be willing to support your social requirements at these events?”

    Frankly, I know more PhD scientists and engineers than blue collar workers for whom the answer to all these questions would be “no.” This is pretty offensive, Kat.

    • I don’t think Kat meant to offend. I think that she was just saying that in many careers it is important to attend social events and make a good impression, and that one has to consider one’s SO in that context (which is relevant to Reader C’s question). Maybe its unfair, but an auto mechanic (and a scientist and an engineer) would be less likely to be comfortable in a suit and mingling at lawyer social events than a banker probably would be.

      I cringe to admit this, but I really did a double-take when meeting the spouse of one of my super-smart, high-achieving (and very good looking) colleague. She showed up to our holiday party with her husband, who was wearing an ill-fitting wrinkled suit, a gross toupee, terrible posture, and could not hold a conversation due to his mumbling. After my double-take, I shrugged it off and figured it was none of my business who she married (although he was definitely not the type of guy I would have guessed). I am sure that there are others in our organization who viewed her in a different light (and not a flattering one) after meeting him. For all I know he was a well-educated individual but he made a terrible impression at that party, and I am sure my colleague has suffered for it. That said, I think if he had been a confident auto mechanic who wore a better suit and could competently mingle, he would have done fine.

      • Similar story about coworker’s spouses — a coworker of mine brought her husband (college educated, blue collar job) to a not-quite-formal but not relaxed sit-down dinner at a partner’s house. Her husband got up mid-meal and disappeared for about 20 minutes.

        As it turned out, the husband did not drink wine. He had gone out to the store to buy a six pack of beer, and brought it to the table.

        Eyebrows raised all across the room.

        I think the takeaway here is that your spouse’s behavior DOES reflect upon you, whether that is fair, proper, PC, whatever, or not. The job/career may not matter, its how someone acts and how potentially awkward issues are handled.

    • also found it offensive – the educated part.

    • karenpadi :

      It’s a valid concern and I’m going through the comments just to second that concern. My last long term boyfriend was a Silicon Valley nerd/scientist. He was never comfortable in a suit or at firm events. So it’s not limited to blue-collar workers (heck, we even have lawyers who can’t meet these standards in my office).

      If a SO can’t do these things (mine couldn’t eat with a napkin on his lap), it’s perfectly OK to not bring the SO to work events. Just say “he has a conflicting event” or be honest and say “these types of events really aren’t his thing”.

      • I think it’s perfectly valid to be concerned if your SO would answer no to any of the questions that Kat posed. I think it’s offensive, however, that her post implies these are issues specifically for blue-collar workers. And the “educated” part was especially insensitive.

  22. I honestly, honestly have no clue what most of my coworkers spouses do for a living.

  23. It’s worked for men for years–plenty of bigwig guys have wives who are secretaries or LPNs or whatever. That probably doesn’t help in terms of the prestige question–people will be judgmental no matter what you do–but you might like to talk to some men in these kind of asymmetrical (as seen from today) relationships about how they dealt with their differences in approaches to careers, if you have any.

    I’m a bit jaded, because I (a prof) dated a guy for a while who didn’t finish college, works selling airplane parts over the phone. He knows lots of nuts & bolts stuff, but what really got me is that with years of experience managing restaurants and plenty of complaints about a co-worker, he didn’t apply when mgt position in his dept came open, and whined endlessly when hated co-worker got the spot. There were other things too–attitude when he was asked (or given the opportunity, depending on which of us you ask) to make a presentation at a company-wide meeting, unwillingness to do a n y thing after hours, etc. He really couldn’t get his head around professional activities that are not specified in a job description. You might want to try to project down the road a bit and think through where you both will be thinkingwise a decade or more into your career.

  24. Anonymous :

    Oh geesh, my husband won’t do any of the stuff Kat mentions at the end of the post: wear a suit or tux to (or even in most cases attend) my work events, have patience with the social niceties/ games of the legal profession, etc. And he’s in a “white collar” profession!

    Good thing I didn’t read this before saying “I do.”

  25. backtowork :

    I think telling people that your spouse has a blue-collar job is surely easier than telling people that your spouse is unemployed. But what we discovered, during that unemployment period when we dreaded social events, is that most people really only want to talk about themselves and what they’re interested in. If you steer the conversation away from yourself, then the question of what your husband does (or doesn’t do!) may never come up.

  26. My thoughts are as follows:

    1. Congratulations on finding someone you love and who loves you back, and on being in a position to attend a T-14 school and have the big law option ahead. Not easy feats nowadays, and good luck with both ventures :)

    2. I agree with others above who said that you should be proud of where you came from and of your fiance and not try to be something you’re not for the sake of other people. How we’re perceived is often based on how we present ourselves, if you act like you’re embarassed of your fiance, people will think he’s embarassing. If you act like he’s the bee’s knees, people will assume the same.

    3. Like Kat said, I think the one issue where this can come up is at firm functions/bring-a-date events — IF he is uncomfortable in those situations. I have one friend from law school who has a “blue collar” SO and, frankly, he is not someone she can bring with her to many functions. He is perfectly lovely one on one, but he feels like he is being judged when he hangs out with too many lawyers or clients (regardless of how nice people are to him) and he starts to drink a lot, and gets withdrawn and resentful. I’m not suggesting that would happen to you, or that this is an issue for anyone else in a similar situation, just something my friend deals with. As a solution, she just doesn’t bring him places, inc. colleagues’ weddings, the company holiday party, etc. She has made her peace with this arrangement and it works for them, but it does lead to occasional strife and the random comment about how she’s hiding her man from her coworkers.

    Frankly though my SO – a lawyer with a rather sought after job who should be great these things – is also sometimes a terrible date when it comes to events he could give a sh*t about. Just taciturn and really awkward half the time (he thinks nothing of playing with his blackberry, letting long silences drag on, etc.). So it’s really more of a ‘know your partner’ kind of deal, not a ‘who your partner is,’ necessarily. For me, personally, the important thing is that he can be “on” when I need him to, doesn’t take offense when I tell him that now is the time to act like a social butterfly, and he never gives me any grief for going to events without him.

    4. As concerns Kat’s comment about table manners and speech, I agree that those are important but, frankly, I have seen plenty of lawyers – though perhaps not from very fancy firms – who say ‘ax’ instead of ‘ask,’ who chew with their mouth open, who wear terrible suits with terrible shirts and stained ties, etc. A J.D. does not guarantee you’ll know which fork to use!

  27. Hmm. This is a very political question. Honestly? Yes, some attorneys (and doctors, and stock brokers, and bankers – anyone who makes big bank with a big degree) will look down on anyone who doesn’t also have a big degree and a big salary. These people are jerks. There are also murderers, thieves, assholes, and general d-bags in law and in life. You get to deal with all of those things at some point because you are a human (although hopefully not too many murderers!). It’ll be an issue sometimes. But most of the time it won’t, because most people aren’t jerks.

    But I’d say a HUGE part of this depends on your fiance. Is he the type to be totally unselfconscious when answering a question about where he went to school? Or will he be withdrawn and awkward and just make it weird? I’ve seen it go both ways with lawyer-friends sporting blue collar husbands. I’d say it really depends on him.

  28. This is an interesting topic. I think there are people with all levels of education who would feel uncomfortable in a room/gala with biglaw attorneys. It isn’t exactly my idea of a great time and I am an attorney. The functions I have with my (government) coworkers are pretty low key, casual, and welcoming to everyone regardless of profession and that’s the way I prefer it.

  29. If you’re both confident and unapologetic about your career choices, I think people will find it interesting that your husband is a mechanic — he probably knows about a lot of things that they don’t, and vice versa, as opposed to when someone’s spouse is a lawyer. If you’re in the kind of place where people are so snobby that they think people with certain jobs are beneath them, you probably don’t want to be there too long anyway. (But speaking as a big firm lawyer, I don’t think most places are like that.)

  30. First, Congrats on your engagement! I think if you find that your expectations are in line and it works for you and your husband, that’s all that matters!

  31. Some people will look down on you, and some people won’t.

    In my experience though, the most problematic are the people who don’t think that they are looking down on you, but who can’t examine their own privilege enough to see that they’re treating you differently. They’ll make assumptions that are probably well-intentioned, but hurtful nonetheless (for example about table manners and grammar, or that you & spouse wouldn’t be interested in attending certain kinds of social events). To me, it always felt a lot like hearing people say “I’m not racist, some of my best friends are black.” The people who you know are looking down on you are so much easier to write off, to avoid.

    You have to decide how much you can put up with, and how much you can (or want to) “pass” as the upper-middle class crowd, or you have to be really lucky to find a workplace where it doesn’t matter. For me, after 3 years of feeling like I didn’t belong in law school, I decided I’d rather not spend my life in a career where I felt like an outsider.

  32. Interesting topic. The main thing that strikes me is that a male attorney would never be concerned about his wife’s job. As long as she was polite, attractive, and could fit in, no one would care.

    • I disagree, considering what I’ve heard male coworkers say behind each others’ backs. And in fact, I have a male friend (professor) who refuses to date “teachers or social workers.”

      • Funny, that male friend (professor)’s opposite number is the arrogant investment banker who says he wants to marry a teacher or social worker.

        Translating investment banker-ese into plain English, we get, “I want a woman who makes 1/100000 what I make, so as soon as I get her to pop out the heir, I can use my superior earning power and bullying skills I learned early in life and honed on the job, to pressure her to quit work and devote her time to helicoptering over the heir, and maybe popping out a few spares, and doing the charity circuit to get our names on the social calendar. Also, I want to marry my mommy, and saying ‘teacher, especially elementary-school teacher’, sounds somewhat less Freudian.”

        • Woa — typecast much? This is just as bad as saying all automechanics are uneducated slobs.

          • As a former teacher and a licensed social worker, I had to comment… I’ve been told throughout my life that I ought to become a lawyer and I often find I have more in common with lawyer ladies than I do with women in my fields, largely for reasons that bring me to this site. I spend a great deal of time with celebrities and other wealthy folk (including you fah-ncy lawyers hehe) and fit in just fine, thank you. I also have no plans to procreate.

            Yay for the lawyer who is open about not dating someone like me… it saves me the trouble of wasting an evening figuring out he’s an @SS. As for the other who wants such, well, give him my # ;)

          • (and by that I meant so I can give him a reality check, not so I can date him and be morphed into a robot wife) hehe

  33. Research, Not Law :

    My husband’s profession isn’t blue collar – but it’s often mistaken for such. (Furthermore, his hobbies are all in that realm, so he’s frequently seen picking me up from work in his truck wearing a flannel shirt, carhartts, and muddy boots). So I can offer some perspective.

    I do get some “ohh?” responses when his occupation comes up in conversation. It doesn’t seem like a negative judgment, more simply surprise. The vast majority of my collogues’ spouses (and social networks) are white-collar professionals, so it’s just not an expected response. Honestly, their next question is usually to ask for advice!

    I’m sure there is an occasional person who does judge my husband based on a stereotype that he’s lazy, stupid, boring, uneducated, or all of the above – but that would make them a jerk. (And, as the OP probably knows, he’s not any of those things). He mixes as well as any spouse at company functions, too. I’ve certainly never had the impression that it portrayed me poorly in anyway.

    I do agree with above comments that finances can be tricky. It’s absolutely not a dealbreaker issue so long as (a) he’s comfortable making less and (b) he knows that YOU are comfortable with him making less. Note that for (b), your words are important, but your actions even more so.

  34. It gives me pause that this woman even thinks twice about the blue collar job of her fiance. It says to me that she in some way looks down on him and his choice of profession and that trouble may well brew in the future as she distances herself more and more from his working class background. Long story, but my husband came from working class background, didn’t finish high school, attended some college, but didn’t finish that either. We met when he was my driver picking me up at the airport from a business trip. Up to that time my dating life was filled with high-achieving professional men (lot like me), who frankly didn’t do anything for me. My driver husband, however, was so real and solid, no nonsense and such a wonderful breath of fresh air. I was head over heels in no time, married within 6 months, had our first son 10 months after that and have had a wonderful nearly 30 year marriage. Fact is, he just REFUSED to play the game and I respect him more for it, while I on the other hand did for way too long till I set out on my own nearly 20 years ago. I thank God for him and his perspective. He was house husband, stay at home Dad for a time and still handles most of the housekeeping (I do the cooking) because he is better at that stuff than I am. While I do the core work in our business and put in more hours as a result, he handles all the money stuff (is our CFO and brilliant at it) and has the same no-nonsense attitude in the business that he has in real life. Plus he is all alpha male and plays the bad cop to my good cop when needed (and sometimes we do the reverse, as well). I never once thought twice about what people would think of me taking a mate from a different class background, never thought less of him, but hold him up as as perfect a life mate and business partner as I could have. Further I am convinced his IQ is way higher than mine (as if that matters), he is also a very accomplished musician/song writer, just way way more than a working slub. Come on girl, do you love this mechanic fellow or not? Are you willing to let him lead you when necessary? Will you always respect him? I don’t feel good about this relationship because she had to ask the question. She better think long and hard about how she will feel 10-20 years out and it has far more to do with what she thinks and feels than it does what her business partners and colleagues do. Good luck.

    • Bingo.

    • That’s a good story!!

    • THIS. I thought the exact same thing – it’s a problem that she’s even asking the question in the first place. I would be shocked if they made it through law school if shes already thinking about stuff like this. I also found Kat’s response kind of offensive with all the assumptions made about the fiancé. Does he have good table manners? Really?

    • Don’t be so quick to judge. My SO worked in retail when I was in law school, and I was very uncomfortable about it whenever other law students asked. I got more than a few surprised “oh!” responses, and I still don’t think that they were just responding to my discomfort. Just because I was a little embarrassed about his job doesn’t mean we don’t have an otherwise strong (and yes, long-lasting) relationship. Law students/lawyers can be pretentious and elitist *sometimes*. Worrying about how people in your field will respond to someone that’s very important to you, and whether they will unfairly judge that person, is perfectly reasonable.

  35. I would marry a BLUE collar guy unless he was a jerk.

    After all, look at RUFUS in Gossip Girl! She married him and he is Blue collar.

    I want a guy who respects me, not a doofus.

    Alan was white collar, but a drunk. FOOEY on him!

    The manageing partner is white collar, but he likes to look at my body. FOOEY on him, too.

  36. Black-tie? :

    Do most biglaw attorneys have experience going to a lot of firm events with their spouses? I am third year associate at a big firm in D.C., and I have never once brought my husband to a single firm-related gala-type event (the only firm-related event he’s been invited to was a picnic at a partner’s house). In fact, I have never been invited to or required to attend a single black-tie event for the firm. I attend cocktail receptions and other networking events, but these are not the types of events where people bring their spouses. Yet I always hear or read about biglaw lawyers discussing all the fancy events they have to attend, and Kat mentions here that Reader C should anticipate bringing her husband to these events. Is my experience/firm/city just unusual? Or are fewer people going to these events that I believe?

    • I think it depends on how well you get along with your colleagues. I work for an international organization. No one brings spouses to our official work events unless the spouses work in the same field, but many people’s spouses come to happy hour. My department also periodically has weekend get-togethers and everyone brings their spouses or kids. When we have baby showers (always outside the office), we invite male colleagues’ wives. We have gone to each other’s weddings. If I’m having a party, I invite my colleagues and their spouses in addition to all my non-work friends.

      In smaller markets, I think it’s very common to bring spouses along to things. I once had a callback interview dinner in a mid-sized city with 2 partners and an associate, and one of the partners brought his wife.

  37. Black-tie? :

    Do most biglaw attorneys have experience going to a lot of firm events with their spouses? I am third year associate at a big firm in D.C., and I have never once brought my husband to a single firm-related gala-type event (the only firm-related event he’s been invited to was a picnic at a partner’s house). In fact, I have never been invited to or required to attend a single black-tie event for the firm. I attend c*cktail receptions and other networking events, but these are not the types of events where people bring their spouses. Yet I always hear or read about biglaw lawyers discussing all the fancy events they have to attend, and Kat mentions here that Reader C should anticipate bringing her husband to these events. Is my experience/firm/city just unusual? Or are fewer people going to these events that I believe?

    Read more:

  38. Not a lawyer, but my husband is a blue collar worker. He went to college and graduated, but was downsized. He found jobs to supplement his lost income and has just stayed with those jobs. he takes care of the kids and works at night.

    I do get some “flak” for having a BC husband. Mostly it’s from members who feel their you-know-what doesn’t stink. None of my co-workers ever think twice because there are some other “house husbands.” I’ve never been embarassed by hubby at a work function; he knows how to “behave” in professional situations.

    There was one time he felt a bit awkward. I took him on a VERY nice golf weekend to a very well known course/resort. We were taking a shuttle to the golf course and the driver was making small talk with hubby (ignoring me). Driver asked “so sir, what business are you in?” and hubby replies “no business, I’m a stay at home dad. My wife works.” – which isn’t entirely true because he does work outside the house. Driver sputtered a bit and shut up. He never asked me what I do – and I didn’t care. But it was the first time hubby has ever been put on the spot like that.

  39. LurkerHere :

    First off, Congratulations! As for the situation, I’m in a similar place myself:

    My now fiance and I met randomly one night, and our backgrounds as a result are considerably different (90% of my friends, I would say, falls into a middle to upper-middle class, minimum Bachelor’s Degree-holding, “white bread” families). My family is conservative Korean; my dad has a JD and worked for the Korean government as a diplomat for his whole life, and my mom has a MEd in Nursing Pedagogy/BN in Nursing Science and worked as a Professor until she had children and chose to stop working. Now, on the other hand, my fiance’s parents never went to university, his father is an Industrial Pipefitter and his mom had a college (in Montreal, they follow the French system, so you have High School –> College/Trade School –> University) certificate in Human Resources and thus worked in that field and worked very hard to progress & compete with those who had university degrees.

    Our situation is similar; I myself have a BA/BSc in Economics & Psychology, while my fiance has a collegial diploma in Aeronautics (I’m a Market Analyst, he’s a Aeronautics Technician).

    Needless to say, this was a huge problem for my parents – the Asian culture values education highly and so having a “blue collar” fiance is shameful, at least in their eyes (not to mention the shock of having a Non-Asian son-in-law) – but we found ways to make it work. There was, and there still is, a lot of intolerant people who will pass judgement on your union, but as long as you guys are happy and find a way to communicate/overcome the uncomfortable moments, I see NO problem whatsoever. Just know that self-absorbed status-seekers are pretty airheaded and thus their opinions do not count for anything – what does count is that you guys care about each other and that you will work together through everything.

    Funny trivia fact: in the Victorian times, well-to-do women loving blue-collar men was considered a MENTAL DISEASE. They had a nice name for it, which in modern parlance is used very differently – Nymphomania. Lovely, how people judge each other constantly, isn’t it?

    • LurkerHere :

      *an Aeronautics. Sorry. I’m a stickler for grammar.

    • “There WERE, and there still ARE, a lot of intolerant people”

      Sorry. I’m a stickler for grammar also.

  40. MissJackson :

    Perhaps you missed the thread earlier in the week where a bunch of BigLaw attorneys (myself included) all said what we would do it we could start over again (hint: they were mostly blue collar jobs)?

    Are some people going to be judgmental? Yes. Are those people worth your time? No. Would those people find something else to be judgmental about if you were married to another ‘professional’? Yes.

    And… as for finances: you are just as likely to be better off, and anyone with half a brain should have figured it out. I assume that your blue collar boy didn’t take out $160k in student debt to go to law school/b-school, right? That’s a hefty head start.

  41. Anon for this :

    On the flip side, at my husband’s small firm, I am the only non-SAHM. I definitely feel awkward about that, as there is a lot of daytime socializing among the wives and they are good friends. When there is a social event, I am a bit of an outsider, since they don’t really ask me about work and I can’t participate in the conversations about their bridge groups and volunteer groups (I volunteer, but not at the trendy during-the-daytime organizations), but we can usually talk about kids. I think sometimes my husband is a little embarrassed to be the only one with the wife with the career.

  42. I work with someone whose husband is what I would nicely call a redneck. While his job may not be “blue collar”, he is absolutely an embarrassment at social events and I feel like he’s a liability to her career since she insists on bringing him to He drinks too much (and often shows up to events drunk). He chain smokes at events. He wears a bolo tie with suits. He curses like a sailor and constantly complains that his wife works too much. But most importantly, he has awful table manners and treats wait staff so badly that everyone at the table gets embarrassed and uncomfortable.

    So I sort of agree with Kat, although a lot of you were offended — I’m less concerned with someone’s career or credentials and more concerned with how they handle themselves at an event. If your spouse makes your coworkers feel uncomfortable because of his/her lack of etiquette or couth, then that may become a liability to your career and you should consider not bringing your spouse to future events.

    • But all those qualities have nothing to do with his job. thats what I found offensive about her post.

  43. In my office, there are several young women who have husbands with non-professional jobs. One is a cook, one is a waiter, and the other a dive instructor. They are all wonderful husbands and fathers. The one young woman whose hubby is also a lawyer; well, he is a self-absorbed ass and a crappy dad. My husband has more of an office job but he is not college educated. He is also the better parent and very attentive hubby and unlike my first husband, has no problem at social events. Go for the blue collar man!

  44. Look, anyone that’s going to give you grief over this qua this is, I feel comfortable saying, a bad person. You can proceed accordingly.

  45. My hubby, the Forester :

    Wow, this is a great topic. As the comments demonstrate, there are several perspectives on the subject. I am a senior level associate at a large national firm. I am also a wife and a mom. My husband of 4 years works in an ag profession and often has to shower before dinner. He is college-educated, and smart, but also shy and can be akward in social situations. There are both pros and cons to our situation – both from a career perspective and a personal one. As with any relationship, you will face challenges. If you have faith in your love for him and his love for you, are open and honest with each other, and focus on the important aspects of life, you will be fine. Yes, some people may judge, the same way they may judge the type of purse you carry or the type of car you drive, but do not let them get to you. Be your best at work and be your best at home. Fortunately, or unfortunately, modern women can have it all. We just have to deal with the struggle to maintain “it all.” Congratulations and the best of luck to you!

  46. law talking girl :

    Education doesn’t guarantee good grammar. My boyfriend has an MA in a social science discipline and has apparently never learned to use the word “gone.” Any time “gone” is the proper word to use he says “went.” It’s peculiar but kind of cute. Maybe it’s a regional dialect thing? He is from a Rockies state and English is his first language. More on topic, anyone who judges you for your spouse’s choice of work is a grade A douchebag who doesn’t deserve to be your employer, co-worker or friend.

  47. Clueless summer :

    Some people ARE jerks. At a law school Halloween party, I was introducing my SO to an acquaintance. It being a Halloween party, I said this is Boyfriend, he’s a trucker. Meaning, of course, that was his super low maintenance “do I have to dress up?” costume. She replied with a disgusted look and said “wow, really?”. He’s not a trucker but his Dadis, so we were unimpressed to say the least but honestly, to this day we laugh about it. So, yeah, people can be jerks…but I find as long as the guy is secure in himself and happy with his career, it doesn’t matter and you can make an inside joke of whatever jerk comments people make. I think it’s only an issue, or I’ve only seen it being an issue when the blue collar SO is insecure for whatever reason.

  48. One of my close friends from my BigLaw firm — she with an Ivy League law degree and who does hardcore M&A work (i.e., works all hours) — is married to a firefighter. She brings him to occasional functions and we (all her female friends at the firm) think it is totally HOT. I mean, go home to a hot firefighter who has not been doing due diligence all day, or go home to your husband who has also been doing due diligence all day and pretty much doesn’t feel like talking? I realize I am turning this into a Harlequin romance novel, but, still — it’s hot. We could give a shit what he does. We just kinda like looking at him. And we think she rocks.

  49. Anonymous :

    Just watch for the ones that want free advice/work on their cars, I don’t know about where you are, but lawyers can be a notoriously stingy bunch up here – they might need a reminder his billable rate is by the hour too. :)

  50. I think that a lot of comments point out valid concerns (him not feeling comfortable at events etc). But I think the bigger question is why I are worrying about this before you even start law school? If people were answering more negatively would you call of your wedding? Make sure you are not the one who has the problem with him being blue collar.

    • Right? I think the question itself at such an early point in time points to a much bigger and potentially more serious issue. She hasn’t even started law school & gotten that big law job… and so at the very least it’s 4 yrs away. SO many things can happen in that time frame.
      I think worrying about this is putting the carriage before the horse.
      So it makes me think the OP is coming up with issues to get out of it– even if she won’t admit it to herself. But then again, it’s typical for law school types to worry about the next 3 decades. ;-p

  51. When asked if my significant other is a lawyer, I usually respond with an emphatic “Hell no, I would NEVER date a lawyer… he’s regional logistics manager for a company that builds science labs and he’s SO NORMAL… it’s awesome”

    Perhaps that makes me a redneck in some snotty lawyer’s minds, but honestly, if they are that snotty, I don’t give a rat’s petut.

    There is something seriously wrong with the disconnect between the societal acceptance of men with lower/ non earning wives vs. the opposite situation.

  52. I am not a lawyer and don’t know many lawyers – just a few who are friends or family members. However, base on what I’m reading on this post and what you guys are saying, it makes lawyers come off as snobby, ego centric, egotistic and not down to earth. How hard is it to talk to a blue collar worker? Why does education even matter? Why can’t people at these functions you’ve mentioned talk about movies, sports or TV shows? Why would someone without a college degree have a hard time fitting in? You guys are mostly lawyers so if your professional world is so cold and baron, why do it? This doesn’t sound like something people would want to do for the rest of their lives. Why put yourself in such unpleasant environments?

    • agree! totally. am a lawyer by background but dont’ work as one anymore. it’s a ridiculous, constructed little world in many ways with lots of internal rules and nonsense. not that there aren’t exceptions. but yes, they are a special breed.

      • ps but people do it because they have invested the time/energy into the training/experience, they sometimes really like the work, the money, etc. variety of reasons. also some of them are the actual snobs and like the elitism feelings and behavior. :(

  53. “Will he refuse to wear a suit or more business-type clothes when you go to “bring-a-date” firm events? Can he make dinner conversation with people on “educated” topics? On a more basic level, are his table manners and his grammar good (or is he open to improving them)?”

    Yowza! Enough with the prejudiced expectations of “blue-collar”! I’d like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that plenty of perfectly wealthy people are rotten conversationalists who chew like cows. Some of the most interesting people I know have a hundred bucks to their name and neck tattoos. And thank God for them.

    • :)

    • It's not that simple :

      Sure, wealthy people (especially the nonworking spouses and kids) can be as entitled and deathly boring. But it’s their club. They are members. A poor or blue collar associate who is there only by virtue of merit feels s/he’s there on a guest pass.

  54. Well I am a happily married lawyer to a lawyer (met in school) but was just thinking about this for others this week as both my mailman and UPS guy are rather hot and nice… tall, handsome, friendly. We had a big snowstorm in Seattle last week so I was around watching them out the window in the rough conditions chatting with all the neighbors, petting dogs, etc. and they’ll always been sweet to me. I was thinking: who can I hook them up with? (granted they could be married for all I know). But I thought through whether ‘professional’ friends would care about this and concluded most of my friends would give them a chance, but most of my friends are more creative types, have their own businesses, etc. and live oustide that box. And Pacific Northwest is different than NYC, DC etc.; people here moreso don’t care about these things. Cripes, in NY people looked down on me, for not being rich and not going to a good enough law school in their view. I say enough of that; if you live or work somewhere with that attitude, get out and go somewhere more human and less focused on the wrong things.

    ps if you live in seattle the cuties are in north cap hill area:)..

  55. Also just another add on how place makes a difference- when I moved west, it was a huge contrast to see how many educated-type Americans do blue collar jobs- ferry staff, drugstore checkout, mailmen, electrician, etc.; in all the east coast cities I lived in, this was much more stratified in terms of population/background/ethnicity. So I bet that what people are used to seeing/experiencing in their community plays into how they react to it. Here, it’s just normal to encounter people at parties that may work as a lawyer, doctor etc or blue collar job all in the same crowd- job isn’t seen as who you are.

  56. Seattle Lawyer Mom :

    I doubt many lawyers these days are going to say something overtly mean. I have heard of many different spouse occupations and I think I uniformly say “oh, that sounds neat” with an interested tone no matter if I’ve heard of the job, understand it, or couldn’t care less. You’re more likely to get people saying “oh that’s SO cool” in a too nice way b/c they want to be sure you don’t think they’re prejudiced, or people making comments about other things, when spouse occupations are not the topic of conversation, that assume everyone around has the same amount of money and societal background — like assuming everyone went to private school and has housecleaners. But if you and your husband are nice people and you work with nice people, you’ll end up getting to actually know and like each other and all will be fine. You might read the book Limbo — it’s a journalist’s investigation of what happens when a child from a bluecollar family first goes to college and thereby moves into the whitecollar world. Really interesting.

  57. It's not that simple :

    I went to one of the two top law schools and worked at what is considered to be one of the very best law firms after graduation. It could be awkward if your boyfriend makes embarrassing pronunciation errors, which was true of a guy I broke up when I went to law school, although that was not the reason.

    I once met a fellow student whose fiancé was a police officer. He seemed like a nice, regular guy, but frankly, I was shocked because we were both poor, striving students and it seemed as if almost everyone else was going to marry a lawyer, doctor, or investment banker. Another classmate believed she was condescended to because her parents were blue collar. One of my siblings went into a field in which s/he works with his or her hands, and one of my law school classmates assumed that my sibling had not gone to college, which was untrue.

    At a law firm, I had another friend from a very comfortable background who didn’t announce his marriage. I had the impression that he was embarrassed because his wife was an immigrant and a woman of color whose English was OK but not great. He was completely devoted to her. I assume his concern about the firm’s reaction was justified.

    I think that as long as you are excellent at what you do and appear polished no one will hold it against you that you come from a blue collar or poor background. But people will be surprised if your spouse isn’t equally polished and you show up with him at a fancy firm event.

    It is naive to say Why would you go to a law school/firm in which you didn’t feel completely comfortable? It’s the credentials/potential opportunities/money, stupid.

    • I have a friend who is married to a blue collar worker that immigrated here from Asia so his English is not good. He has a college degree from his country but it’s not very usable here. Anyways, she does tell me that she sometimes feels embarrass to bring him to office parties because he can’t really talk to anyone. I am sure the feeling is not uncommon for people in her situation but I just told her that no one really cares. The person who makes it a big deal is her and that she’s the one who needs to deal with it.

  58. Why not try to find the other woman in the office whose husband hates firm events and hang out with her at all those events. My husband works in healthcare…not really blue collar but he has very little college. He hates firm functions as well as civic events. SO… I have three co-workers that I try to hang with or take along – One whose husband hates the events equally, one with small children at home and one who is is single…. I usually ask one of them to accompany me to civic or firm events… they are my date. My excuse for my husband is either 1) he’s on call at the hospital – which is sometimes the case or 2) he is shy – and why not hang with so-so who isn’t.

    Tonight I am headed to a large civic event… my coworker is coming along so her husband can stay home with the kids. No biggie.

  59. This is just reality. People make judgements on others all the time and you get treated very differently base on your occupation. When I was a grad student, I attended a party with my then boyfriend (now husband) and one of the ladies there asked me what I did. They were all very corporate (MBAs at fortune 500 companies) and I said that I was still in school. Since I obviously looked over school age, she automatically assumed that I was a college drop out and am just now going back to school to better myself. Her response to me in a condescending way was “good for you” and she turned the other way and talked to someone else. :( She never cared to talk to me again.

    I find that people really do treat me different based on what they know of me and I’m sure that I’m not alone. Most of the functions we attend are from my husband’s work so people don’t know me. I am usually type cast as a stay at home mom because I don’t have much to say or don’t have much input about stocks and wallstreet. No offense to stay at home moms but some working women, not me, really think that way of stay at mom homes. Based on what little they know of me, they are not really interested in carrying a real conversation with me.

  60. Anonymous :

    I find it curious that so many posts are about what blue collar workers are or are not, when the OPs question is about how other perceive them. I’m not in law, but a similar field where many people do not know (professionally or personally) anyone who has never gone beyond college (let alone never gone to college), and unfortunately, the answer is that yes, humans judge other humans (not just on this, lots of things!). And some people will judge your relationship, and sometimes it will be people who you can’t make snarky comments to without risking something. I think most of Kat’s opinions in this post are weird, but I do agree with the final thought – are you two partners? If so, you’ll figure it out.

  61. For what it’s worth, I live in Richmond, but am not a lawyer. I have a master’s degree and worked in NYC and DC before moving down here. I do not think Richmond has the same expectations as those cities in terms of education/profession. I have found that people are not as interested in where you went to school (unless it was a VA school and you are talking sports) and what degree you have. I don’t think it will be a big deal what type of work he does.

  62. Oh my, I just saw this and had to comment, even though I don’t usually.

    As a person who grew up in the area where Reader C hopes to live/work with one professional parent and one blue-collar parent, I can tell you that that deeply affected my school experience.
    My mother, making a comfortable salary, wanted me to attend a private elementary/middle school. Lots of attorneys’ children also went there. I really couldn’t say whether your future husband’s profession will affect you in the office, but in the event you have children, I suggest that you examine the social dynamic of any private schools you might consider in the DC Metro area very, very carefully unless you want your kindergartner coming home asking if “only stupid people don’t go to college,” or some such nonsense. Although, the public schools in the area are excellent, so you might not ever look into the whole business.

    [I should note that the group of children I attended school with were a uniquely unpleasant, ill-raised bunch – I am not suggesting that all private schools across the area have this problem. The school itself, in fact, thought they were the worst class they’d seen in years. But at that age, you have to look to the parents to understand why.]

    That aside, I would like to say that I really enjoy this blog and find your writing helpful, and refreshing, Kat – usually. Your final paragraph here makes some very offensive assumptions. Occasionally I direct my mom to your site, if there’s something she’d like to read. While I’m sure she would find this fascinating, I don’t think I’ll tell her about it; tax season approaches (she’s a CPA) and she doesn’t need the stress. My family has been fighting this kind of prejudice our entire lives.

    I mean, come on – not being able to wear a tuxedo? How, exactly? They make them for men of all shapes and sizes regardless of occupation. And “refusing” to wear business attire when it’s appropriate? They’re adults who happen to not have professional jobs, not toddlers throwing a temper tantrum about what to wear to church. One can hardly survive in any field that works with clients – as many blue-collar jobs do – without reasonably good grammar. And as for “educated” discussion topics? Many blue collar workers are highly intelligent and well-informed; some aren’t. Just like professional workers! My dad is a carpenter and history buff. Bet he remembers more about 20th century Europe than all those attorneys who were history majors just because they were going pre-law. And if he doesn’t know much about some “educated” topic, he politely says so and asks for more information, like any sensible person would do.

    Interesting question – and interesting answers. I hope those commenters who say they have no prejudice against blue collar workers eventually overtake those who still hold these damaging prejudicial views.

  63. This is why I love living in the PNW. Its not so stuffy and for the most part, no one would raise an eyebrow if someone brought their own beer to a casual dinner.

  64. I wondered similar things as I started law school and met several students who came from a long legacy of lawyers. I learned that it really didn’t matter. It came down to what I made of it. My partner of several years is a long haul truck driver. I have never met any lawyers or law students who have looked down on him for his profession. In fact, they are interested in it and ask him about his various trips to different parts of the country, etc.

  65. I’m a small firm lawyer happily married for years to a roofer. He plays well with others, and anyone who turns up their noses because of his job are simply excluded from my personal life. I don’t need judgy people around me. That’s probably why I never aspired to Big Law. Yes, I’m being judgy about Big Law. I guess it goes both ways.

  66. Anonymous :

    I haven’t read the other comments, too may [and I don’t know why I don’t see these questions and comments until 4 days after they’re posted, Corporette emails are among the first I open].

    My first 2 ex-husbands hadn’t gone through college, the first had even dropped out of high school. I was snotty enough to think less of #1, notwithstanding that I had dropped out after 1 year of college. I wasn’t overly proud of #2 either. I didn’t give any credit for their being widely read. I thought they were not professionally ambitious. I probably wasn’t a good object of pride either. They were both nice guys, we just didn’t work out.

    Both of them became very successful in what they eventually ended up doing. Having spoken to each of them years later, they were still nice guys, had successful later marriages, and were happy with their work and their lives.

    My ex #3 was a nutjob who had graduated college.

    My last husband had a college degree, was a successful free-lancer, but not too ambitious. He was brilliant, accomplished, incredibly supportive, and was able to shmooz and charm all of the crazy and not-so crazy colleagues I worked with and had to socialize with.

    I think the question comes down to how do you and he feel about the differences in income? about the social “status” of your respective work. Explore how you and he will feel as you move up the professional and income ladder. And remember, hardly anything turns out the way we imagined or planned. How you grow together is critical. So your and his abilities to be together mutually supportive and successful, and your adaptibility and meeting challenges will count for more than backgrounds and status-y professions etc.

    Best wishes for much happiness.

  67. Single gal :

    I think that some of your colleagues might be judgemental. But I think that when it comes to things like promotions and assignments, it’s not going to matter. As long as you are a hard worker and get your work done.

  68. Athenaesq :

    I can relate my sister’s experience. She worked her way up to middle management in a big consumer products company. Her husband, high school education, was a brakeman on the railroad (coupled and uncoupled cars). She is retired now; they have been married 30 years, 1 child. Her husband, a very nice guy, was never comfortable with her work peers, all of whom had college degrees and many with MBAs. He resisted attending corporate functions and flatly refused to wear a tie. When they socialized out side work, it was always with his friends from the railroad. He is a bright guy, served as union steward for a while, has turned down promotions because he did not want more stressful work. Bottom line: they made it all work while my sister was still at her job, but he was far from an asset to her career and, in my opinion, held back her advancement. As a Biglaw veteran, I can say that yes, I think the original writer will be at a disadvantage married to a mechanic if she hopes to succeed in Biglaw . However, there are many areas of the legal profession outside Biglaw where such a marriage would not necessarily be a disadvantage.

  69. Reader C here!

    I know this has apparently been up and commented on for a week or so now, but somehow I am just now realizing it! I wanted to thank everyone for commenting and sharing your thoughts and opinions.

    I just wanted to weigh in on a few things.

    1) Kat’s concerns (in her last paragraph) are the same concerns that I’ve had. My fiance (thankfully, IME) has no problem wearing a tuxedo, or tie, or attending networking events. Thankfully, he is well-spoken. For people who do not have a lot of experience being around “need-a-shower-before-dinner” types, concerns about speech and manners are definitely warranted. It’s gotten to the point where I have told my fiance that I prefer some of his friends do not come to our apartment because I feel they have a negative effect on our lives. (Think beer-bellied, Copenhagen-chewing, all-rich-people-suck-thinking, proud-to-be-poor-and-white-trash-acting types).

    2) The comments everyone has made about how males in BigLaw (and probably, in any type of law) love cars has also been a welcome thought that never crossed my mind. DF and I actually *do* have plans to start up a business focused on European cars (once I am making significant money to be able to afford the start up costs). It never ONCE crossed my mind that DUH – men love to talk about cars. I’m actually laughing at myself.

    3) Regarding children/finances, etc. As it is now, I make more money than DF, and we have completely integrated finances. I manage all monies and he is completely hands off, and it works that way for us. I have discussed with him, AT LENGTH, the fact that I will out-earn him for a few years (possibly more, depending on how/what happens w/ us opening up a shop) and he says he’s fine with it. I think children are the one concern we have – I want to send my children to a private school, and he is against it. Although, kids are probably 8-10 years away so I suppose we will cross that bridge when we come to it.

    4) Thanks to the people who commented on Richmond specifically. Part of me feels like it might be a more open and accepting environment down there, but then again, I have concerns because DF is from the DC metro area and I am from the PNW. We’ve mutually decided on Richmond because it has everything we want – close to family, affordable real estate, tons of local restaurants and shopping, historic renovation projects which are important to me for personal reasons/something I want to get involved with eventually.

    Overall, I plan to take the road of proud and supportive wife. If someone asks what my husband/fiance does, I’ll answer proudly and with a smile on my face that he is a mechanic. I’ll assume that it won’t be a problem, and if it turns out it is a problem, then it’ll just be too bad for that person because clearly, they are not worthy of being in mine, or my fabulous mechanic-husband’s lives!

  70. I’m graduating and going into marketing this year, and plan to move pretty high up into the business. My boyfriend is in school to be a high school band teacher, and even before either of us are finished with school we’re already getting comments about the difference in our career choices. His family wishes that he would go for a higher paying job and already refers to me as “the breadwinner”. My family supports his decision to be a teacher now, but sometimes worry that our plans will lead us different ways. Admittedly, he is not a very receptive person when it comes to understanding the games that I have to play in my field, but he’s learning how things work over time.

    Personally, I was a little skeptical that it wouldn’t cause conflict in our lives at first. But after watching him as he teaches band over the summers and how much he loves it I’ve come to realize that its his passion and that’s what really made it click to me that it doesn’t matter what we do or how much money we make. As long as we follow and support each other in our passions and dreams we’ll be fine.

  71. UniversityBased :

    I’m not in the legal field. I do work in Higher Ed., which includes a number of JDs, and, obviously, is mostly comprised of highly educated people. I think that the author makes some valuable points. I would add to her list the question of how comfortable your fiance is attending social events, not just whether or not he will do it. Speaking as a single woman, I’ve essentially given up hope of finding a less educated husband because the egos of the men I’ve dated don’t seem to allow for me being more educated and potentially earning more money, not that I’m particularly well off. I willingly concede that one of the big issues here is with the men in question, but, at 40 years old, I’ve dated enough of them to see that it’s problematic. (Being able to just talk about my workday and what I’m facing and expect him to understand the details rarely happens, and vice versa, in all fairness. With work being such a huge part of my life, that chasm is too much for me.) My similarly educated girlfriends of various races and socioeconomic statuses are in the same position. If you and your fiance are happy as you are and are comfortable moving in each other’s worlds then it’s an incredible blessing. Don’t let other people’s opinions stand in the way of your happiness. That much being said, you will experience some fallout: funny looks, the occasional rude comment, etc., so both of you should prepare for it and how you’re going to handle it.

  72. I am an associate at a mid-sized firm in a smallish southern metropolitan area. My husband is a painter. Although everyone with whom I work is friendly, he hates going to firm events because he says they are all boring. I think it has more to do with his self consciousness than the fact that firm parties are not drunken blowouts like his family parties. I usually can get him to go to the attorney Christmas party, but he inevitably tells me at some point in teh week leading up to it that he’s not going. It is a giant pain in the neck and causes a fair amount of tension.

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