Valerie Katz

Posts by Valerie Katz

Maybe it is because I have been reading the comments or my reviews, but lately, I have reevaluated my work history. Five years after graduating from law school, I could be “associate general counsel” at some company, or maybe even “income partner” or “junior partner” at a small law firm. Or, if I worked hard enough and dreamed big enough, I could be a Public Information Director. I, however, am none of those things.

Why not? I have followed most of the generic tips out there. I “do good work.” After a few missteps, I now “dress for the job I want, not the job I have.” I got “five passports, I’m never going to jail.” Oops, maybe that last one was not a career tip. Moving on…

So why am I in career purgatory and my colleague from law school, Jimmy NoBalls, is a partner? (Note: his name has been changed for my amusement). I found the answer in a very well-crafted article on Corporette, Battling Burnout. Tip No. 6 reads as follows:

Whatever you do, at least the very least, fake interest in your current job (as the Men’s Health article also advised). Arrive on time. Be sociable. Look as professional as possible. Smile.

This tip explained everything. The difference between Jimmy and me is not talent, skill, experience, or anything else substantive. No, Jimmy was faking it. I, on the other hand, wear my disdain like a t-shirt (which coincidentally reads, “I work at your cr**py small firm, and all I got was this crummy t-shirt”).

If you want to do well at your job, fake it….

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The other day, I was at dinner with some Biglaw friends. While I prefer to associate only with my small-firm kin, I needed someone to pick up the check. And, I thought I could do some missionary work and convert my friends in to small-firm lawyers (so I could mine them for story ideas, obviously).

Something unexpected happened during dinner. One of my friends asked me why I believe small-firm life is so different from Biglaw. I went through my standard list of reasons: quality of life, money, autonomy, mentoring, etc. I even cited Tom Wallerstein’s Top Ten.

That was where things took an unexpected turn: my friend did not buy it. Indeed, by the end of our dinner he had me questioning my beliefs. Does size matter, I thought? Needless to say, as a woman who has devoted her “career” to writing about small-firm life, this experience shook me to my core.

Let’s see if you can help me make sense of that night….

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Like most of you, I spend my free time trying to come up with a plot idea for Miss Congeniality 3. Indeed, Miss Congeniality and Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous were just not enough. It is hard, however, to mess with perfection.

Having reached the limits of my creativity, I decided to look to actual events (and, of course, small law firm news) to serve as the inspiration for my movie plot. And I found just what I was looking for, thanks to a real-life Miss Congeniality and Mr. Social Security.

Intrigued? Check out photos of a certified hottie, after the break….

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As this is the first week after I made my New Year’s resolution, I can happily report that I am on track. Well, I did eat an entire coffee cake on New Year’s Day which probably did not fit within my new diet plan, but otherwise I am still resolute. Other than getting a hot bod for 2012, I have resolved to maintain a healthy work/life balance.

If I listened to the gospel of Facebook C.O.O. Sheryl Sandberg, I would worry that my resolution may stand in my way of attaining a leadership position. As some of you may recall, last January Sandberg identified “premature work-life balance concerns” as one of the three reasons many women fail to occupy the C-suite. As an example, Sandburg discussed a young woman in her office who was already worrying about how to juggle family, love, and work despite the fact that she was single and childless. (Way to kick a girl when she’s down, huh?) Vivia Chen, writing about Sandberg, agreed that there is an “increasing concern (maybe obsession) about the issue” of work/life balance among female lawyers and law students.

Luckily, I am not making this decision based on my concerns over hypothetical family obligations. No, I am just lazy and do not like to work. And I am not alone….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Size Matters: Let’s Implement Five-Day Weekends at Small Firms (Or at Least Respect the Two)”

I would bet that at least half of you resolved to find a new job in 2012. And, for many, that new job means going out on your own. As with most New Year’s resolutions, however, such a measure may seem overwhelming.

Lucky for you, Carolyn Elefant has updated her book, Solo by Choice: How to Be the Lawyer You Always Wanted to Be (affiliate link). The book provides a thorough road map for lawyers looking to make the leap to solo practice.

Solo By Choice is divided into five parts: (1) The Decision; (2) Planning the Launch; (3) The Practice; (4) Solo Marketing; and (5) Solos in Transition. The sections offer information and advice designed for lawyers at all levels of experience, from new graduate to partner. A large portion of the book discusses new technology and social media. And to bring the message home, Elefant profiles successful solos and provides tips they learned in starting and running their own firms….

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To help me get in the holiday spirit, I’ve been catching up on my favorite movies. Some might prefer It’s A Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street, but I can’t get enough of It’s a Wonderful Lifetime and ABC Family’s 25 Days of Christmas. Give me a movie where a D-list celebrity overcomes the holiday blues to discover the meaning of Christmas, the joy of love, and the warmth of family, and I am a happy girl.

After 22 days of non-stop Christmas movie watching, I began to think that only in a movie staring Melissa Joan Hart would someone devote her professional career to tackling an issue she had to overcome. Not so.

Earlier this month, Casey Greenfield, known for her personal battle with child support issues, and Scott Labby, a fellow graduate of Yale Law School, formed the firm Greenfield Labby LLP. The firm’s mission is to serve individual clients “with a focus on family and matrimonial practice, strategic planning and crisis management”….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Size Matters: From Tragedy to Triumph Isn’t Just a Theme in Lifetime Movies (Just Ask Casey Greenfield)”

I trust that after last week’s column, all my small-firm spinsters are well on their way to finding meaningful, romantic relationships with their co-workers (read: New Year’s Eve booty calls). After waking up at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, I realized that I forgot to suggest one guaranteed way to meet your small-firm suitor: the office party.

While Tannebaum may hate the office holiday party, I believe that it is one of the main — if not most important — reasons to work for a small firm. Or, for that matter, to be a law firm lawyer at all. Indeed, I may be drowning in debt come graduation, but at least I will be able to drink cheap boxed wine with a rainmaking partner once a year. It is worth the investment. (Take that, Wall Street Journal.)

As much I love me a holiday party, however, I do believe there are certain rules one must follow. I cannot promise that I observe these rules myself, but as the saying goes, those who cannot do, teach. And with that, here is a guide for how to behave at the office party….

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There are only two weeks remaining before New Year’s Eve. That means that my small-firm singles only have a short window to secure their New Year’s Eve date. And according to our survey, none of you will be working on the holiday, so you better get your act together.

Luckily for you, I am an expert at finding love. If you can believe it, this skill outshines my genius at doling out small-firm advice. And since I write under a pseudonym, none of you know that I am a 46-year-old spinster who has eggs in the freezer. Oh, well I guess you do now, but let’s get on with my tips for a successful small-firm seduction….

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After graduating from college, I had a job interview with Mars. The interviewer asked me, “If you could be a candy bar, which one would you be and why?” I was not prepared for such a difficult question. First, I had to try to recall which candy bars were manufactured by Mars. Second, deciding which candy bar was my favorite was like choosing a favorite child. After a little thought, I responded, “I would be a Twix bar because there are two of them.” In addition to making no sense, my answer revealed a personality flaw that is best not disclosed up front: I am indecisive. And I guess I have a split personality? Unsurprisingly, I did not get the job.

There are a few other issues, beyond choosing my favorite candy bar, that I have difficulty resolving. The issue du jour is whether or not it is worth getting more education to get a (better) job. And I am not just talking about a J.D., I am talking about the Small Business LLM from Concord Law School.

Concord Law School launched its Small Business LLM program in the fall of 2010. Designed to be completed part-time online in two years, the program offers hands-on practical education to equip practitioners or recent law grads with the skills needed to serve small business clients. Tuition is $600 per credit hour, or $14,400 for the program. While Concord does not offer scholarships, there are opportunities for students to obtain outside financial aid and private loans.

Is it worth it? Let’s discuss the pros and cons….

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This weekend I was able to catch up on my favorite reality television show, Real Housewives of Atlanta. I assure you that I watch the show only because of its profile of small-firm lawyer, Phaedra Parks. The November 27, 2011 episode entitled “Jewels Be Dangled,” taught us a very important lesson for small-firm practitioners.

Phaedra brought Kandi a special present for her 35th birthday. All wrapped up in a giant box with a bow, Phaedra presented her friend with a special performance by her client, Ridiculous. For those of you unfamiliar with the Infamous Ridiculous, he is a very well-endowed stripper who will shake his business in the face of audience members and then, as an encore, his own. The performance upset at least a few party guests and, in typical Housewives fashion, drama ensued.

While the naive observer may think that Phaedra brought Ridiculous to the party because the show is, well, ridiculous, the truth is Ms. Parks was warning small-firm lawyers about an issue they must confront in running their practice….

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