Advice for the Lawlame

You want to know what the future of law entails for you? Probably not much. You do the same crap everyone else does. You’re some run-of-the-mill commercial litigator, or you write the same wills as every other estate planning lawyer, or you’re an “aggressive” and “caring” and “passionate” criminal-defense lawyer that will “fight for your rights.”

It’s all garbage. You don’t matter. You compete on price and spend your day wondering what works better — pay-per-click, or your Facebook Fan Page. You’ll pay the bills and get a nice case every so often, but you’re just another lawyer wondering why the world hasn’t lined up to hire you.

The future of law is specialization. I’m not just talking about “niche” practices, I’m talking about specialization within your practice. I’m talking about being a resource in your practice area, or knowing more about a specific issue than the others. And yes, I have examples, calm down, I’ll lay this out for you in simple, easy terms that you can understand. Maybe you can even put some of this to work in the middle of contemplating your miserable life as a lawyer….

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Party time?

It’s finals time already. For professors, that means another semester is in the books. Sure they still have to grade the exams, but that’s what stairs are for.

With their teaching duties done, the faculty at the University of Memphis School of Law decided to have a holiday party, with a band, in the reading room of the library while students were studying for finals.

Kind of brings new meaning to the term “tone deaf,” doesn’t it?

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I am always intrigued by articles giving advice on appropriate office behavior. For whatever reason, these advice columns almost always discuss the appropriateness (or lack thereof) of crying in the office. I am not sure why this is such a newsworthy topic, as I have rarely witnessed such behavior — either as a Biglaw associate or when I went to a small firm. And I only cried once in my five years of practice, and that was not in the office — it was in the elevator. Unfortunately a partner happened to be in the elevator with me, but I could not help it.

Last week the Wall Street Journal featured an article on this topic. Don’t Cry (At The Office) suggests that you not cry at the office (yes, shocking). The article goes on to suggest that you go home or to your therapist’s office to cry because while having feelings at work is a no-no, it is important to have feelings when you are off the clock.

After learning that one should not cry at the office, I decided to investigate other inappropriate behaviors. I have put together a list of forbidden actions for small-firm attorneys based on input from my cadre of small-firm Emily Posts.

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letter writing Above the Law Blawg.JPGBack in this post, an ATL reader confessed to playing a little trick on Ann Israel, the legal recruiter who writes’s popular Advice for the Lawlorn column. He wrote:

Love ATL’s Advice for the Lawlame column. My friends and I have been reading’s Advice for the Lawlorn with a sort of amused contempt for a year.

After a while, we grew tired of the formulaic cluelessness of the posts and the answers, so we challeged each other to get our fake submissions answered. I won, with this entry….

Well, it appears that Ann Israel got wind of this prank. And she’s none too pleased about it.
Her fit of pique, after the jump.

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letter writing.jpgIt has been forever since the last edition of Advice for the Lawlame. In this feature, we take a question submitted to one of’s popular advice columns, such as “Advice for the Lawlorn,” and offer our own unique take.
Here’s the condensed version of today’s question:

I am a mentor in my firm to a couple of younger lawyers. My problem is that one talks to me too much about personal issues.

A sticky situation. When you’re a partner, she’s an associate, and you’re having conversations about that “not-so-fresh feeling,” you know it’s time to redefine the parameters of your relationship.
The complete version of this question, plus our “advice” — after the jump.

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letter writing.jpgThis actually isn’t a new installment of our Advice for the Lawlame column (although one is in the works). Rather, it’s a funny email we received from a reader who shares our fascination with’s Advice for the Lawlorn column. Here it is:

Love the “Advice for the Lawlame” column. My friends and I have been reading “Advice for the Lawlorn” with a sort of amused contempt for a year. After a while, we grew tired of the formulaic cluelessness of the posts and the answers, so we challeged each other to get our fake submissions answered.

I won, with the below entry. Note how spectacularly lame the “author” of the submission was — not only did he spend his law school career neglecting academics for drinks and rugby, but his team wasn’t any good! Ann was almost on to me, but the voices of her better and more credulous angels won out.

I’ll stay anon because I’m a partner at a big NY firm. Not to worry. No client was billed while I was teasing Ann.

Our reader’s “winning” submission — and Ann Israel’s response — after the jump.

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letter writing.jpgTime for another installment of Advice for the Lawlame, the closest thing that Above the Law has to an “advice column.” We take the questions submitted to’s popular advice columns, including “Advice for the Lawlorn,” and offer our own take on them.
(We’ve been at this for quite some time now. For the Advice for the Lawlame archives, click here, then scroll down.)
Here’s today’s query:

The partner I work with is seen as strange by the rest of the firm. How do I avoid being tarred by the same brush?

HA, tell us about it. Back when we were in private practice, we ended up as biatch to the weirdest partner in the whole damn place. So this is a question we’re well-equipped to answer.
More details from the query, plus our “advice,” after the jump (click on the “continue reading” link below).

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Before you call us sexist and let slip the dogs of war, please note that the question in the title of this post isn’t ours. Rather, it’s a question submitted to one of the advice columns, by a female attorney. Here’s the complete query:

I am a female associate, and I wonder if I’m alone in vastly preferring to work for male attorneys than female attorneys. It’s also easier to have male opposing counsel.

Many women I’ve worked for or had as opposing counsel have been humorless, driven, easily offended, easily threatened, and seemingly without the ability to relax and take it easy.

Men that I’ve worked for or had a matter with, by contrast, have been relaxed, not gotten upset about every little thing, have been unthreatened, and so forth. It’s just been a lot easier to get along with them.

I’d hate to think that women lawyers just aren’t very good at managing people or playing well with others, but that’s the experience I’ve had. What are your thoughts?

You can read career consultant Holly English’s response here. Or you can read our less earnest reaction, appears after the jump.

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One of our favorite features over at are the advice columns. There’s Advice for the Lawlorn, a column by Ann Israel, a legal recruiter based in New York. And there’s Crossroads, in which job consultant Linda Laufer offers insights on career direction and job transition.
In a typical column, some clueless correspondent writes in to Ann Israel, says that he has a 2.3 GPA from a fourth-tier law school, and asks if he can land a job at Davis Polk. Sensibly enough, Ann tells him he has a better chance of being in a three-way with Petra Nemcova and Madeleine Albright. She then suggests that he hire a well-regarded headhunter — someone like herself, say — to help him get a paralegal position at a personal-injury firm somewhere on Long Island.
Ann’s advice is often sound, especially when it relates to her area of expertise: how to land a Biglaw job. But sometimes she’s off the mark — and sometimes she seems more interested in shilling for legal recruiters than offering actual insight.
So we’ve decided to offer our own version of an advice column here at Above the Law. We’ll take questions submitted to “Advice for the Lawlorn” or “Crossroads,” then offer our own unique take on them.
Here’s this week’s request for advice:

Dear Ann:

While on an interview with a BigLaw firm, the question came up about whether I was an attorney and passed the California Bar in July. The truth is that I passed in February; but I just agreed that I passed in July. The interview went really well otherwise and I expect an offer any day. I had no intention to not tell the truth – I just got caught up in the heat of the moment. What do I do if I am hired? I really need this job!

Our reponse to this legal Pinocchio, after the jump.

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