Biglaw, Career Alternatives

Departure Memo of the Day: After Biglaw, Everybody Should Find Their Zihuatanejo

The Biglaw grind is not unlike being in Shawshank prison. It involves years of lockdown, with the occasional rooftop beer or comfortable library, interspersed with terrifying conversations that end with a partner saying, “Or am I being obtuse?”, and then locking you in solitary confinement.

After such an experience, everybody deserves a redemption.

Today’s excellent departure memo comes from a former comedian who decided to leave comedy to go into a top Biglaw job. That’s not a joke.

Now, he’d rather be at the bottom of an ocean….

Our departing associate is leaving Cleary Gottlieb. As is typical with these memos, the guy has nice things to say about his colleagues on his way out of the door:

Good friends and colleagues, the day has arrived. One departure memo is all that stands between me and the alumni directory. Only one more elevator ride from the 42nd floor, only one more Captivate Network sesquipedalian* to add to my lexicon. Doubtless you have grasped my meaning: today is my last day at Cleary.

Back in 2009, when I joined the firm, I was three years removed from a career as a stand-up comedian. Yet Cleary welcomed me. Eager critics pointed out that the firm was merely maintaining comedic equilibrium, since another associate had left to become a comedian just as I arrived (true story). But I believe that my story reveals something deeper about this place. If you aren’t exactly allowed to let your freak flag fly in the halls of One Liberty, you’re at least encouraged to own such a flag, and maybe even wear it around your office as a cape. Growing a beard like a rhododendron bush? Love it! Acting as Falstaff in the Parking Lot Shakespeare? We raise a glass to you! Have your work on my desk by the morning, but otherwise do your thing.

Each day I’ve spent here has left its mark on me, as have many of the nights. Listing the lessons I’ve learned and the people I’ve learned them from would try your patience no less than searching for acrostics in a mass-distribution e-mail. Luckily, there are certain conventions of the departure memo that must be observed. Onward then! Let’s jump ahead to my plans…

*big word… thank you Captivate!

Yes, it’s not actually prison… as long as you press the license plates on time, you’re free to have whatever contraband you like in your cell.

One thing I like about this memo though is the shout-out to Captivate. Captivate is like the shibboleth of Biglaw. You simply haven’t had a top job unless you’ve been at a cocktail party, been roped into a “current events” discussion, and had to pretend that you know what is going on based exclusively on the little Captivate snippets you caught in the elevator. The ad revenues for that company must be through the roof.

In any event, we should call this associate Steve Zissou because of his future plans:

I would love to tell you that I intend to walk across the country with my dog or stay put with my partner the pop singer. Fair to say, on the Mount Olympus of departure memos, those inhabit the loftiest peaks. Each departure memo has its place in the genre, however. And this is my humble contribution.

Quenching my thirst for adventure has always been a priority of mine. Underwater adventure most of all. A few short hours after I relocate to South Florida, I will commence my training as a professional diver. The legal work will continue, of course, but as I hope to keep this memo light, those details can remain in the background.

I’ll be happy, I’ll keep in touch and there’s only one other thing you need to know.

Cleary, I will miss you.

Internal link time! Zissou references the epic departure memos of Tyler Coulson, who left to walk the Earth, and Garrett Waltzer, who left to love a would-be reality TV star.

While becoming a professional diver is perhaps a more modest goal, it’s just as much of a movie-like idea as the two former lawyers he referenced. Maybe this guy will end up running the preferred diving company of Bendini, Lambert, and Locke?

I applaud when people who are drowning in Biglaw find an oxygen tank. Good luck in South Florida. After your time on Wall Street, I don’t think that little boat is too much to ask.

You can read the departure memo in full on the following page….

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