Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Inside Straight, Above the Law’s new column for in-house counsel, written by Mark Herrmann.

First, a story; then, an attempt to find a job for an unemployed former editor-in-chief of the Chicago-Kent Law Review.

Here’s the story: After I wrote The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Practicing Law, I thought about how to maximize sales of the book. I had the clever (if I do say so myself) idea of sending free copies to the editors-in-chief of a bunch of law reviews. I figured that those folks were likely to (1) read a book and (2) be “opinion leaders” on their respective campuses, so word of the book would spread.

But there was a fly in my ointment. If you send a law student a book, the student is likely to read the book and pass it on to a friend, who will do the same in turn. That generates readers (which is nice), but it doesn’t generate sales (which is nicer).

How do you prevent this?

My wife had a great idea. (I wish the idea were mine, but I really can’t take credit. Actually, I’d take credit in a heartbeat, but she might read this column and call me on it.) My wife suggested that I personally inscribe each book to the targeted editor-in-chief: “For Jane Doe. Enjoy the practice of law! Mark Herrmann.”

This is great! The recipient is delighted; he or she feels as though you’ve gone out of your way to send a personalized copy of the book. But the inscription also serves the author’s purpose. No one gives away a copy of a book that has been personally inscribed and signed by the author; inscribing the thing is as good as tearing the cover off of it.

So I sat down a year ago September (as I now do every year), inscribed a bunch of books, and mailed them off to some editors-in-chief. That typically results in a couple of “thank you” notes, a small uptick in the book’s sales ranking at Amazon.com, and an echoing silence.

Earlier this month, however, last year’s mailing prompted a different result. I got a letter in the mail from the editor-in-chief of the Chicago-Kent Law Review for 2009-2010. This kid (sorry — but, at my age, recent graduates are all kids to me) wrote that he graduated last year and has been unemployed for seven months. He’s done everything possible to find a job — volunteering, interviewing, applying to all the clerkships, checking all the online job sites — and remains unemployed.

Remarkably, he somehow blames me for this. (His logic was a little convoluted here, I must say, but it had something to do with my book exciting him about the prospect of working only for him to discover that he had no place to work.) The letter asks that I make this up to him by calling or meeting him and offering a job, or at least providing some advice. (The letter does include a postscript, which I quote in full: “Oh. And thanks for the book.” Nice touch, kid.)

Anyway, I admired the kid’s spunk, so I met him for coffee last week. And David Freedman, the 2009-2010 editor-in-chief of the Chicago-Kent Law Review, seems like an articulate, decent guy. He has the EIC credential. And he’s available. (I must say that I’m dumbstruck to learn that the editor-in-chief of the Chicago-Kent Law Review is having trouble finding a job, even in a terribly tough job market. David’s letter acknowledged that his situation might be different if he had “finished at the top of [his] class,” so perhaps that’s an issue. I really don’t know; I didn’t chat with David about his grades.)

That was the wind-up; here’s the closing pitch:

On the one hand, if there’s a chance that you have a job (or a lead for a job) that can help this guy, please send an e-mail to David Freedman at dfreedman@hotmail.com. Let’s make this column at Above the Law serve a purpose. Let’s find a job for at least one unemployed recent law school graduate.

If, on the other hand, you just want to savage this guy, that’s what the “comment” bar is for at the bottom of this column. Have at it. (David will probably forgive the abuse if we manage to find him a job.)

Finally, if you’re another unemployed recent law school graduate, please do not contact me for help. David came up with his idea; he contacted me first; he wins (to the extent you can call spreading news of one’s plight a victory). I don’t even know if I can help David; I certainly can’t help everyone else. Sorry about that.

P.S. to David Freedman: If you get a job, you really must let me know. And, oh, yes — as to the free copy of the book: You’re quite welcome.

Earlier: Prior installments of Inside Straight


Mark Herrmann is the Vice President and Chief Counsel – Litigation at Aon, the world’s leading provider of risk management services, insurance and reinsurance brokerage, and human capital and management consulting. He is the author of The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Practicing Law.

You can reach him by email at inhouse@abovethelaw.com.


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