Reading time: four minutes
Ingrid Yun is a Korean-American lawyer who sits in the mergers and acquisitions (M&A) department of an elite New York law firm, where she has been working for six years. Her main aim, along with her two best friends, is to secure a junior partnership. The show revolves around Ingrid’s work, her love life, and family struggles. She mainly works on one corporate acquisition (and all the issues that arise regarding that deal), where one large energy conglomerate seeks to acquire another clean energy company. Ingrid’s friends also have their own deals to complete: Rachel, who sits in the litigation department, is tasked with overseeing inheritance/family issues, and Tyler works on a fashion-related dispute. Despite bringing up some serious issues and making a social commentary, the tone of the show remains light, with a focus on romance.
Addressing issues within the corporate structure
The show addresses several problems that may occur in the workplace, such as racism, sexism, lack of accountability, and nepotism. The series portrays Ingrid navigating workplace politics, facing the tension and competition between her co-workers as they aim for partnership. In doing so, Ingrid struggles with doing her work whilst keeping true to her beliefs and ideals. This first occurs when interacting with one of the firm’s clients: when the client makes a racial comment, Ingrid chooses to ignore it, unwilling to risk her position to stand up for herself. The series shows how co-workers can also make offensive and unprofessional comments towards their colleagues.
At the firm's annual retreat, one of the characters, Dan, performs a stand-up comedy show, charged with racist and insensitive remarks (based on a conversation he has with Tyler). Ingrid speaks to a partner in the hope that Dan will face the consequences of his actions. Yet, despite recommendations from the HR to place him on probation, Dan faces no real repercussions, and eventually becomes a junior partner.
The pressure to diversify the workplace also seems to rest on Ingrid. She is invited by a partner to chair her firm’s diversity gala, and despite feeling tired of tokenism and despite the firm failing to justly address Dan’s performance, she accepts to remain in the running for a partnership. Unfortunately, Ingrid believes that she can initiate change within the firm only once she reaches the partner level. The show questions Ingrid’s morality and her sacrificing her ideals and beliefs for career progression. For example, when Tyler wants to quit and expose the lack of accountability within the firm, Ingrid, at her boss’ request, offers Tyler to sign a non-disclosure agreement in exchange for money.
Another topic the series brings up is nepotism: Ingrid is assigned a new paralegal, who seems uninterested in the work and lacks professionalism. We later find out that he got the position through family connections, potentially taking away the opportunity from someone who would be more excited and adept at doing his job.
Lastly, in a conversation a new lawyer has with Tyler, the associate candidly reveals that he joined the firm to pay off his university debts, and then move on to other things. People have different career aspirations, and it may be true that not every lawyer wants to make partner or work at a law firm for their entire career.
Is the show realistic?
Well… sometimes! There’s a fair amount of legalese in the series and it offers a good portrayal of the M&A process. It also shows how lawyers at elite firms struggle with work-life balance, as Ingrid pulls all-nighters, cancels plans constantly, doesn’t see her family, and works through weekends and holidays. While this may happen at high-pressure times, it should not happen consistently! Lawyers often have busy and lighter periods throughout the year. Ingrid also struggles with enforcing boundaries and seems to do everything to appease her superiors, again this is pretty unlikely for an aspiring partner.
This is just one of the less believable aspects of the show. To make the series more interesting and dramatic, the characters are often out of the office, so we don’t see much work being done on a desk or in front of the computer. In fact, the lack of technology and how little of it is used is also unrealistic for a series set in 2022. In one episode, Ingrid and a co-worker even spend hours looking through physical files with no digitalised versions to be seen (yeah, right!)
There would likely be barriers to entry into the office so non-employees, like Ingrid’s boyfriend, could not enter spaces that contain confidential documents. Many of the firm’s employees seem extremely mean, rude, and immature (again, to induce some drama in the TV series), but most people will not be this unkind. Lastly, Ingrid at the beginning of the show says that she chose to go into M&A because it is what the “best, toughest, smartest lawyers do.” While this may be a personal opinion, it’s unlikely she’d impress a recruiter if she were to just say this line when asked for her motivations to join the firm/practice area…