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Easy Commute: Broke Lawyer Lives Secretly Out of His Office

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on May 15, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

When I first started working in law, several people told me that if I wanted to impress, I should make sure I was the first person partners saw when they came in and the last person they saw when they left. I never considered that could mean actually moving in to the office.

But that's just what one young California lawyer did -- after graduation, he gave up his long commutes and high rent in order to live out of his office, unbeknownst to any of his colleagues.

More Than Just a Nine-to-Five

According to a story in the San Francisco Chronicle, "Mitchell" graduated from law school at U.C. Hastings in S.F. and was offered a job as a public defender in Silicon Valley. Public defenders are some of the happiest lawyers, but also some of the lowest paid. In a place like San Francisco, which has the highest rent in America, supporting yourself on a public service salary can be a challenge.

Cost wasn't the only reason Mitchell moved into his office, though. His job was also contingent on passing the bar, making him reluctant to sign a new lease. So instead, each night he waited until everyone had left, then slept upright in his chair. If colleagues were pulling an all-nighter, he'd pack up and sleep in his car. A shower at the gym in the morning, and his coworkers were none the wiser.

Office Living: A Growing Trend?

Mitchell isn't alone in forsaking traditional housing. Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Daniel Norris, for example, sets up camp in his Volkswagen microbus instead of a penthouse apartment. For Norris, living in a "van down by the river" isn't a sign of failure, but of freedom and pursuit of a simpler life.

Of course, not everyone volunteers to go without a home. While general homelessness is decreasing, some white collar professionals are finding it hard to find a place to live in increasingly gentrified cities. Call it the problem of the starving lawyer -- except, of course, it affects more than just low-wage, public interest attorneys. College students, artists and even Congress members -- lots of Congress members --have taken up living, usually secretly, at work.

At least, though, they're saving some money. One cubicle dweller reports saving over $20,000 over the almost two years living at work, while Mitchell saved $12,000 before he decided it was time to sign a lease.

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