My big fat law career

Dining at the desk … Health issues … Law firm meal subsidies designed to trap lawyers at their desks … Chronic wear and tear … Barely Legal dedicates herself to fighting work-induced flab 

I am getting fat. The suits tailor made to my pre-lawyer body are now straining at the seams. 

Consumed by endless rounds of discovery and College of Law assignments, I do something I vowed I would never do – eating lunch at my desk.

One in four Australian employees eat lunch at their desks. Desk lunch eating, as opposed to desk eating, is so common that there are numerous guides dedicated to mastering the art – including here and here. There’s even a blog documenting sad desk lunches.  


Styro Chicken

The harmful effects of eating lunch at the desk are well studied and documented.

According to some analysis, your desk has up to 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat. 

In America nearly 30 percent of the population is chowing down breakfast at their desks. 

Fortunately, the Perth office of BHP Billiton has banned employees from eating at their desks.

Sadly, law firms culturally tolerate – or even encourage – working through lunch hours.

This means eating lunch in the company of Dell the Desktop every day, replacing pens for cutlery and garnishing salads with paper-clips. 

Desk cutlery

My plan to hit the gym every lunchtime was immediately curtailed when the Big Litigation with Deep Pocket Co. started. Instead, my daily exercise consists of pushing trolleys up and down Martin Place, which is a form of cardio and weights exercise, I suppose. 

The problem is the sheer abundance of food – dubious fried meat from the Hunter Connection, free leftover pastries from client meetings and endless biscuits, whose quality has vastly improved since RollOnFriday started ranking law firms based on the quality of their biscuits

Those who toil in the legal profession are exposed to plenty of damaging physical problems: weight gain, chronic pain and reduced immunity – to mention a few. 

Ask any lawyer about their health and you will get a vivid description of their back pains, permanent migraines and muscle disorders. 

In recent years there has been lots of focus on mental health issues in the legal profession. It’s time physical health also moved back into the spotlight.

It’s a puzzle that physical health isn’t up there with depression as item number one on the agenda of the Law Society’s Wellbeing Committee. 

One possible explanation is that most mundane problems like ergonomic issues and sedentary lifestyle don’t really fit with the glamorous Type A lawyer stereotype – two hour daily triathlons and raw food diets.

Another explanation is that quite a few law firms think they are doing enough by providing free fruit, subsidised cafeteria and firm-sponsored sporting teams. 

But, the free fruit and subsidised dinners are the very things that chain lawyers to their bacteria infused desks.

Marching in the City2Surf once a year won’t undo 364 days of bloat-inducing sitting. 

I’m buying things like chicken breast and chopped stir fry vegetables. I’ve thrown out my half-empty jar of Nutella, which has been the feature ingredient of breakfast, lunch, snack and sometimes dinner, in the past month. 

Nonetheless, I will keep my cutlery tools in the desk drawer … just in case.