Associate Advice

Every now and again, attorneys email into Dear Prudence over on Slate and ask the columnist for advice. Then we here at Above the Law read that advice and offer our own, unsolicited versions. It’s fun. It’s like being a know-it-all at a beer garden when somebody mutters “I’ll have a Sam’s” when there’s Goose Island right there on tap.

Today, we have an embarrassment of riches; two attorneys have appeared in recent Dear Prudence columns. They sound entitled and confused, suspicious but trusting, fun for the whole family…

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, in the fifth of five related articles, Casey Berman, founder of Leave Law Behind, a blog and community that focuses on helping unhappy attorneys leave the law, discusses the fifth step attorneys can take to leave the law. Previous articles in this series can be found here, here, here, and here.

As we discussed in the first four articles of this series, through Leave Law Behind, I work with many intelligent attorneys who nonetheless are unhappy and want to leave the law behind and do something else. They want to change their life and their work and their focus with the goal to be more satisfied, more confident, and happier.

I tell them the first step in leaving the law behind involves getting a handle on their money situation; to become as confident and exact as possible in understanding (i) their expenses, as well as any (ii) safety net and other sources of financial support they can call upon if needed….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “From the Career Files: The Fifth Step in Leaving Law Behind — Get Out There”

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, in the fourth of five related articles, Casey Berman, founder of Leave Law Behind, a blog and community that focuses on helping unhappy attorneys leave the law, discusses the fourth step attorneys can take to leave the law. Previous articles in this series can be found here, here, and here.

As we discussed in the first three articles of this series, through Leave Law Behind, I work with many intelligent attorneys who nonetheless are unhappy and want to leave the law behind and do something else. They want to change their life and their work and their focus with the goal to be more satisfied, more confident, and happier.

I tell them the first step in leaving the law behind involves getting a handle on their money situation; to become as confident and exact as possible in understanding (i) their expenses, as well as any (ii) safety net and other sources of financial support they can call upon if needed….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “From the Career Files: The Fourth Step in Leaving Law Behind — Facing Your Fears”


Last week’s column was not intended for a particular group, other than those who enter the world of Biglaw and then wonder what has become of their work/life balance. Some accused me of whining. If that is how you comprehended my message, it speaks to a lack of either comprehension on your part, or writing talent on my part. I was not complaining, I was preaching — or trying to preach. I receive so many letters from young (inexperienced) attorneys and law students asking me about the mythical work/life balance that I took the opportunity to blow off some steam in an attempt to speak truth. I feel that I may not have been thorough, and want to further elucidate (bloviate).

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Joshua Stein gives some practical advice to lawyers on how to manage their relationship with the press.

Reporters can embarrass you. But they can also help you and your clients get your message and name out into the world, if that’s what you want.

When a reporter calls, any lawyer’s first instinct is to say “No comment.” That’s a really good first instinct, particularly for anyone except the most senior member of a legal team representing a client. For that senior lawyer, though, “no comment” might not always be the right answer at the end of the day.

Lawyers aren’t supposed to be founts of information, particularly about their client’s affairs — unless that’s what the client wants. All of that is a matter of legal ethics and client relations, and represents the first and most important element of any lawyer’s strategy in dealing with the press. It’s outside the scope of this article.

Once you get past that “gating issue,” you will sometimes want or need to talk with the press. Here are a few suggestions for how to do that….

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Would you go to work as a deep-sea welder and then complain that you don’t get home enough? Or how about an over-the-road truck driver? Or a fireperson(?) who works three on/three off shifts? No, you wouldn’t. And who would be so dim, right? People going into those jobs know the requirements up front, and still choose them. They don’t later bitch and moan that what they lack is a fireman’s committee that will present grievances to the higher-ups – and they especially don’t complain about this falsehood called work-life balance.

At my last firm, there was just such an “Associate’s Committee,” and they put together a manifesto of sorts that they presented to the partnership. And you know what? Not a damned thing changed, except the partners got angry. And I was angry. It was embarrassing to me that I would be viewed by some partners as actually agreeing to that tripe. I knew what I was in for when I signed on for firm life so very long ago. Don’t get me wrong, I am not taking the tack of a codger lecturing to newbie “why, in my day…” To the contrary, I am speechifying that if you find yourself in a position at a law firm in which you are unhappy, it is likely your own damn fault.

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Ed. note: This is the fourth installment in a new series of monthly posts, brought to you by Corporette’s Kat Griffin, which will deal with topical business and lifestyle issues that present themselves in the world of Biglaw. Send your ideas for columns to us here.

Above the Law readers are sending in questions, and I love it! Reader C, the mother of a recent law grad, wonders “what brand/type suit is best for men.” Great question, and I’m excited to see what the readers have to say. Details just came out with the complete guide to suits, and Esquire also recently came out with the “new rules of suits.” (Over at Corporette, we of course have a complete guide to women’s suits, including whether you can wear tights when interviewing, which are the best inexpensive suit brands, and our regular Suit of the Week feature.)

A few tips for the boys, though….

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Alison Monahan shares some practical advice with associates.

When you show up for work at a law firm, you realize pretty quickly that there’s a lot to learn. Some things people will tell you, but there’s a lot of stuff no one’s going to tell you. Having been on both sides of the equation (as the one screwing things up, and the one getting annoyed with more junior people making my life difficult), here are a few things I learned along the way.

Ten Rules of Thumb for Law Firm Success

1. Don’t bring cases from the wrong jurisdiction. You remember Erie, right? If not, it’s time to review. There is very little that’s more annoying than giving a junior lawyer an assignment to find some case law, and having them come back with a state case, when you need a federal case, or vice versa. It’s one of those situations where you, as the assigning attorney, feel really confused. Did they not understand the assignment? Did they sleep through Civ Pro? Or do they just not care? None of these thoughts make me like you, or want to work with you again. Be sure you understand what you’re looking for, and resist the temptation to bring an irrelevant case, because you can’t find a relevant one.

2. On that note, no one cares how much effort you exerted. If you can’t find a case on point, just say that! If I ask what steps you took to search, feel free to tell me — in detail — so I won’t replicate your work. But do not go on about how many hours you spent, or how hard you looked. I don’t care. It’s nothing personal, I’m sure you’re doing the best you can. But, if you can’t find what I need, I’ll have to find it myself, so it’s best just to give me the bad news, and get out of the way.

Read more at the ATL Career Center….

Ed. note: This is the third installment in a new series of monthly posts, brought to you by Corporette’s Kat Griffin, which will deal with topical business and lifestyle issues that present themselves in the world of Biglaw. Send your ideas for columns to us here.

One of the biggest sartorial challenges that both men and women face is looking professional in bad weather. Whether it’s slush, snow, rain, or just absolutely freezing temperatures, showing up at your office, meeting, or court appearance looking like the abominable snowman is usually frowned upon.

So how can you look your best but also stay warm and dry?

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Tom Wallerstein

I was grateful that Quinn Emanuel sent me to Los Angeles for a multi-week long, intensive trial advocacy training program. The instructors were incredible and the program overall was one of the most valuable training experiences of my career.

Some of the sessions featured practice drills followed by critiques from practicing attorneys. In one of the sessions, that “mentor” role was filled by a junior partner in a well-known firm. He had long, wavy hair and wore a tight silk shirt with the top several buttons open, exposing his chest hair and gold chains. His cologne should have been arrested for olfactory assault. If you think of a 1980s hair-metal band you will get the right idea.

Creepy-looking Mentor was constantly flipping his hair and paying far too much attention to the young, female associates. (He seemed to think it was particularly important to help them with their cross-examination posture, as he made a point of standing behind them and guiding them like a golf or tennis pro might do.)

Even though the program was only “practice” — cue Allen Iverson — there was a lot of pressure because many firm partners were there watching and, presumably, evaluating us. In this particular session, the associate doing a cross examination was very nervous, and visibly shaking. When the associate was finished, Mentor said he had a relevant war story he thought would be helpful to share, and did so….

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