Associate Advice

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pls hndle copy 2.jpgATL –
I will soon leave my biglaw job for greener pastures. My time at the firm has been awful — soul-crushing work, very low morale among associates, distrust of management, and stealth layoffs (luckily I’m not one of those). Recently a lot of those given “forced attrition” have been leaving, and they all say goodbye with falsely upbeat, suck-up emails, full of “I have been grateful for world-class colleagues,” and “I have grown into a well-trained attorney,” and even “I’ll miss my time here.”

I would like nothing better than to send a real, honest email — calling management out for their greed and mismanagement of the firm, stealth layoffs that decimate careers and reputations, and the low morale fostered by bad leadership. Is that career suicide?
Blazing Saddles

Dear Blazing Saddles,
Messages of rage, despair and other unseemly emotions clog the draft sent box of nearly every person’s email account. Most people have the self-restraint to “save as draft” the please die/FYI you were horrible in bed anyway emails. Others have learned from their accidental send mistakes and now draft all break-up and rot in hell emails in MS Word. And still others — the Jerry Maguires among us — press send, and set into motion a parade of horribles.
Let’s say you send a firm-wide email, informing the firm that they’ve robbed you of 5 years of your life and that you’ll see them all in hell. For about 3 seconds, you’ll feel liberated. You sure showed them! Unfortunately, the flipside of liberation is exile. You won’t be seen as a folk hero, carried out on the shoulders of paralegals because even your co-workers who share your FU sentiments will perceive the mere act of sending the email as 100% insane. They’ll immediately forward it on to everyone they know with captions like “HAHA – OMG,” and “Bellevue.” ATL will procure a copy, we’ll do an entire post on it, and then your law career will really be over. The minute you send the email, you’ll be liberated, alright — from your next prospective job, and the one after that, and the one after that, and so on and so forth until a thousand years have passed.
You don’t have to be a complete nerd and send one of those ludicrous “I feel privileged to have worked here/I hope our paths will cross again/please keep in touch” eulogy emails. Don’t send anything at all and proceed immediately to a pub where you turn your rage inwards and abuse your body with alcohol and onion rings.
If you do send the email, pls bcc
Your friend,
I reprise the role of Elie, who’s on vacation, after the jump.

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pls hndle copy 2.jpgATL,

I’m a first year at a BigLaw firm. From the looks of things, I’m not going to make my minimum billable hours this year by a significant margin (>200 hours). It’s not for lack of trying; there’s just not enough work, and any work available is being hoarded.

My last performance review happened before the work drought, and it was excellent. My next performance review won’t happen for a few months. Assuming it is hopeless to bill more hours, (1) what will happen to me, (2) when will it happen, and (3) what should I do? Should I start looking for another job immediately? Should I bum around and wait until my performance review? Will I be fired or laid off with severance?

Celestine Prophecy

Dear Celestine Prophecy,
I don’t know what will happen to you, and your firm may not either, at this point. If your firm is a jerk hat, they’ll fire you for “performance,” following which you’ll tip off ATL, the firm will not respond to media inquiries, and we’ll write a story about stealth layoffs. If your firm is nice, they’ll either pardon your low hours or lay you off with some severance and send a duly mournful “personnel adjustment” announcement to ATL that reads like an obituary. Is your firm a good witch or a bad witch? You would know best.
Starting to look for jobs now definitely seems like a terrific and worthwhile endeavor. While you’re at it, keep your eyes peeled for Curly’s Gold and pieces of the True Cross.
To address your most fundamental “what should I do?” question, there’s not much you can do at this point to affect whatever fate has in store for you. Everyone deals with feelings of despair and helplessness differently, but I recommend Full Catastrophe Living, Peter Cetera, Nordic Naturals Fish Oil with Lemon and loitering at Bath & Body Works to smell the new soap flavors.
Keep a stiff upper lip, as my dad would say. Layoffs have been slowing down for a while now. I think you’ll be ok.
Your friend,
After the jump, something really strange happens. And not in a good way.

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Super associate.JPGWell, at least one lawyer thinks he has this whole Biglaw thing figured out. And he’s happy to share his wisdom with new associates. Writing at the Texas Lawyer, Jason Braun has some harsh advice for young lawyers:

When I became a lawyer, a partner gave me what I now realize was great advice: “Don’t think like an associate,” she told me. “Think like a partner.” I wisely nodded my head. “Of course,” I solemnly replied, hoping she would not notice my confusion….
New associates love being lawyers — or at least should — and hopefully their first and foremost goal is to become a great lawyer. Over the past few years, several tenets have helped me on the way to that goal. Some I learned quickly; others I learned through trial and error.

Oh boy. When you start out declaring what new associates should love in life, you can see where Braun is going.
Check after the jump for more reasons why giving yourself completely to the Biglaw experience is the only way to go.

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pls hndle copy 2.jpgATL,
I am a first year associate in a small/mid-sized firm. I graduated during during the height of the recession, so it took me many months to find this job. I have been working there for about three months (and I hate it).
Recently, I have noticed oppressive and harassing behavior in the workplace by the senior/managing partners. In addition, I have a strong suspicion of unethical practices occurring in the firm, but I do have not have clear evidence to confirm my suspicions. I have a strong inclination to leave the firm for these reasons.
However, if I leave, I am stuck as to how I will answer if asked why I left after just three months. Moreover, trying to find another job in the current economy in California is difficult. I’m afraid if I disclose the real reason I left, I may be saying untrue things about the firm, and/or be viewed as a whistleblower or someone who cannot be trusted. Any other answers will surely raise eyebrows as to my commitment considering the short time period spent at the current firm.
Give a Little Whistle

Give a Little Whistle,
I was sitting at home watching Cake Boss when my phone rang. It was Lat. He asked me what I was doing and I said, “Watching Cake Boss, this show is actually not that bad.” He then reminded me that I had a Pls Hndle Thx due the next day and when I said that I didn’t have any witty responses to the question posed above, he ordered me to – you guessed it – write a poem.
“It doesn’t have to rhyme,” he said, to which I responded, “Actually, last time I checked, ALL poems had to rhyme,” and he immediately conceded this point. So without further ado, I present to you, “Ratting on Your Firm on a Snowy Evening.”
Marin’s Poem and Elie’s Susan Boyle impersonation after the jump.

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pls hndle copy 2.jpgATL,
I was wondering whether I should get/admit to getting plastic surgery.
My issue is that if I was in L.A., I would have done it already, but Chi-town is different, and I want my co-workers to take me seriously notwithstanding the potential surgery.
Too Sexy for My Face

Dear Too Sexy for My Face,
At approximately 8:43 a.m. on November 1, 2001, in an office on Central Park South, Dr. Michael Evan Sachs punched me in the nose with his scalpel. Five days after his precision beating, I removed the bandages to reveal a magnificent elf shoe perched in the middle of my face. Going into the surgery, I hoped that a new nose would solve all my problems. Needless to say, I was not disappointed.
There’s nothing inherently shameful about plastic surgery; some of us were simply born monsters and require surgery to address the situation. The only shameful thing about the whole ordeal is hatching some ludicrous story to explain away your new feature(s) or banking on the fact that your colleagues aren’t observant people and don’t live for this sort of shit. If you show up at work with two Christmas hams stuffed in your shirt or half of your nose hacked off and still pale despite your “Costa Rica trip,” your colleagues will notice, mainly because they aren’t morons. And because they’re tactful professionals, they won’t confront you about it, they’ll just tear you to shreds behind your back. Keeping quiet about it doesn’t make you look discreet, it makes you seem ashamed. If you remove the shame from the equation, the vicious gossip loses its sting. There’s not really anything further for people to discuss about your surgery if you’ve already told them everything yourself.
Stop being corny and worried about whether your colleagues will think you’re vain. Of course you’re vain if you’re getting cosmetic surgery, and there is no sense in wasting time or energy disabusing yourself or coworkers of the truth. Be true to yourself, even the plastic parts.
Your friend,
Elie objectifies us all, after the jump.

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Ashram.JPG[Ed. note: This post is authored by ATL guest columnist Hope Winters. Hope is an early retired lawyer, turned Senate staffer, turned corporate lobbyist. She lives in Washington, DC. Read her previous work here. Read part I and II.]
There are no structured activities left (other than Karmic Yoga which I will not even respond to here) so we decide to take a hike on the pristine lake the Dining Captain told me about before he attempted to rape me. Olivia whips out the sketchy map we can’t follow, and we end up not on a trail but stuck on path of poison ivy and prickly things and mud. We muddle through streams and rocks; my Chanel sunglasses slip and crash on a rock and break. I remind myself that I hate the Ashram and all its surrounding premises.
But suddenly, as we exit the rocks and the African bush, we really do emerge on flat land facing this huge vast beautiful lake. We just stare at it. It’s sparkling and navy blue and placid. Not a ripple. Not a crescent.
We’re suddenly silent. Peaceful. Grateful. We are Whitman and Thoreau.
We’re getting into it.
But will it last? The adventure ends after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Return of Hope During the Recession: Adventures at The Ashram (Part III)”

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pls hndle copy 2.jpgATL –
For the NY bar, exam takers were given the option of either hand writing the test or typing it on a laptop using ExamSoft. I chose to type it because I can obviously type faster than I can write, but I have been having nightmares about my computer freezing on me or some kind of tech glitch happening during the test. I am really freaking out over here. Should I change over to handwriting?
Katharine Gibbs School for Typing

Dear Katharine Gibbs School for Typing,
When I was your age, there was no such thing as being given “the option” to type the bar exam, unless you were among a select group of Benedict Arnolds who volunteered to participate in the 2005 bar exam laptop test run. Everybody else hand wrote the exam, just like our fathers before us, and their fathers and our father’s father’s fathers and so on and so forth as far back as President Abraham Lincoln, who somehow got away with just “reading” law, most likely because he was a giant and people weren’t about to pick a fight with him over minor things.
The law guild is no different than any other gang: you have to get jumped to get in. Us hand writers wrote until our fingers seized up and our hands gnarled into claws, and by God we liked it that way. My year, some poor soul’s hand fell off altogether so he switched hands and kept right on writing, because that’s just what you do. You typers seem to forget that the first part of the Character and Fitness test is purification by pain.
But you and your Turing machines know nothing of “”honor” or “loyalty” or “code.” Maybe your so-called “laptop” will ease your sissy hand cramps, but it will do nothing to address the fundamental issue here. You, sir, have no respect for your elders or for the handwriting brotherhood. You sicken me.
Will there be problems with your laptop on the day of the exam? Only God knows. And He is watching you and your computer, my friend. And He is judging.
Your friend,

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Pls Hndle Thx: And Now You Do What They Told Ya”

Ashram.JPG[Ed. note: This post is authored by ATL guest columnist Hope Winters. Hope is an early retired lawyer, turned Senate staffer, turned corporate lobbyist. She lives in Washington, DC. Read her previous work here. Read part I of this piece here.]
After this dinner I’m still starving from, we hop into the car to drive to the purported “private” room we paid extra for. Now I’m really starting to believe murder or rape is a foregone conclusion. I attract criminals like Jewish men attract Asian girls. And here’s the thing, there’s nothing to stop anyone from doing anything. We’re not allowed to lock either our door nor the front door to the Brady Brunchesque house we will be staying in tonight. Our “private” room is in this house. I said a private room. Like hotel room. Not a room in some random family’s house. Not some room I’m not allowed to lock.
As I enter the spacious open living room containing a lot blue mats and a lot small purple chairs for meditation, I find a DVD player. Excellent. Civility. I’ll just do my Denise Austin Yoga for Abs video and skip class tomorrow. It’s almost pitch black in the room because not only do these people not eat, they don’t do electricity.
I walk over to the big glass window peering out over the water — trying to find the lake, and then, I hear this boy’s voice.
“Hey.” I turn around quickly.
Plaid flannel shirt. Black wire rimmed glasses. Scruffy beard. Red North Face jacket. So Ted Bundy.
I have met my maker.
Can Hope survive her first encounter with Ashram men? Non-homicidal details after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Return of Hope During the Recession: Adventures at The Ashram (Part II)”

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pls hndle copy 2.jpgDear Above The Law,
I am a summer associate at a BigLaw firm in New York. I have no work and I spend my day surfing the net. My assignment coordinator forbade me from getting work from anyone else, but won’t give me any either. The partners and associates ignore me. I feel like they’re creating an impossible situation where they’re setting me up to be no-offered. What should I do?
Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Dear Who Framed Roger Rabbit,
If you’ve seen Intervention, Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew seasons 1-3 or Sober House, you’re no doubt familiar with the Serenity Prayer:
God grant me the serenity:
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
Here’s some wisdom: your quandary is of the “things I cannot change” type. If you’re not getting any work and everyone’s avoiding you it’s either because you smell or they didn’t want the ATL press associated with rescinding your summer offer and now they’re just humoring you for 10 weeks. Assuming that they are humoring you, your no-offer destiny is written in the stars and it doesn’t make sense for you to fret about it and beg for work. Puritanism died out because people eventually realized that there was no point in being righteous if their fate was predestined. God The firm has predestined you to find a job elsewhere, so grab a scarlet letter and party like it’s 1647. You also might want to look into the smell thing just in case because it’s good to be able to cross things like that off the list.
Your situation is pretty ideal, because now that you know that you’ll be no-offered you can kick back and enjoy the rest of summer without the nagging uncertainty. Take your $2,500 a week and buy a Margaritaville DM1000 Frozen Concoction Maker and sip daquiris from a Nalgene bottle at your desk. Go on a Sex and the City tour and crap your pants when you get to Magnolia Bakery. Walk into a Starbucks at 2 pm and demand to know, “Don’t you people have jobs?” Whatever you do, don’t waste your time worrying about an offer that is never going to happen.
Serenity Now.
Your friend,

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Pls Hndle Thx: Is it Written in the Stars?”

David Goliath pawn defeats king small.jpgBiglaw is suffering — big time. Meanwhile, many smaller and midsize law firms are doing just fine, even thriving. (A number of them — e.g., Silver Golub & Teitell, McKool Smith, and Stone & Magnanini — are expanding, with the help of job postings on Above the Law.)
These days, Am Law 200 firms are generally doing better than their Am Law 100 counterparts. This generally hasn’t been the case, at least in recent years. Industry observers are wondering: Is small beautiful?
That was one theme of Casting a Wider Net: The Rise of the Small to Mid-Sized Law Firm, another panel at yesterday’s conference, co-sponsored by the New York City Bar and Vault, entitled Getting Back in the Game: How to Restart Your Career in a Down Economy. (We wrote about an earlier panel here.)
The panel on small to midsize law firms consisted of:

ALLA ROYTBERG (moderator), Solo Practitioner, and Director, City Bar Small Law Firm Center;

PAUL LIPPE, CEO, Legal On-Ramp;

CORIN LINDSLEY, Managing Director, Major Lindsey & Africa; and

RON GEFFNER, partner, Sadis & Goldberg.

The discussion covered such topics as how to learn about high-quality small firms, how to apply to them, and how to grow one, once you’re there.
A short discussion, after the jump.

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