Books

Call me a step slow.  I’ve only recently stumbled across the memo prepared by Yale Law School warning students about the tyranny of the billable hour. As someone who billed hours for more than 25 years but no longer plays in that sandbox, I feel compelled to comment.

At the outset, let me type words that may startle lawyers just now beginning their careers:  I never felt burdened by the need to bill hours.  (Let the abuse begin!) After clerking, I started my career in the 1980s at a small firm that didn’t make a big deal about billing time.  I was instructed by one senior partner (and I very nearly quote):  “You learn the area of law that you’re researching; that’s what will make you a valuable lawyer some day.  I’ll take care of the bill, making sure that our client pays only a fair price for your work.”  (I later dedicated a book to that guy.)

I was told by another partner:  “We’re a small firm, so we’re not as prominent as the big firms are.  It’s part of your job to help raise the collective profile of this firm and its lawyers.  We don’t particularly care whether you join a bar association, write articles, or go on the board of a non-profit, but we do care that you do something to let people in the community know that we exist.  It’s part of your job.”

I thought those guys were right, and I took that attitude with me when I later (must have popped a gasket and) moved from a small firm in San Francisco to one of the world’s largest firms in Cleveland.  I continued to stay busy with client work, but I also made a point of helping to raise the firm’s profile in the world. I occasionally felt burdened by the crush of work, but I never felt burdened by the need to “bill hours.”  In the course of 25 years, while I practiced law at two different firms, no one ever said a word to me about the number of hours that I billed.

That cuts in both directions. On the one hand, no one ever asked me why I was foolishly wasting all that non-billable time teaching classes and working on non-profit boards. On the other hand (at least after I left San Francisco), no one ever said, “Congratulations for having written those books,” or, “Congratulations on getting that article published in the Wall Street Journal.”  But I, at least, took far more satisfaction in those accomplishments, and in the results that I achieved for clients, than I ever took in having billed a lot of hours (which seems to me like a uniquely unsatisfying professional goal).

How many hours did I bill?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Inside Straight: A Billable Life”

Deidre Dare

Last month, we reported on the latest adventures of Deidre Dare, the sexy expat lawyer who once worked in the Moscow office of Allen & Overy. Her London lawsuit against the firm was dismissed, but Dare is now suing A&O here in New York, seeking $35 million in punitive and compensatory damages.

In the same post, we mentioned that Dare was seeking to raise $25,000 to publish Expat, a book based on her time in Allen & Overy’s Moscow office. Dare described it as “a novel about a group of Westerners living and working in Moscow, Russia and their extravagant but dangerous lifestyle,” with a plot “inspired by a British Petroleum scandal that happened when I was there.”

Dare was trying to raise the $25K on Kickstarter, the popular website that serves as a fundraising platform for creative types with a surplus of ideas and a shortage of cash. Did she succeed?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “An Update on Deidre Dare, Allen & Overy Associate Turned Aspiring Authoress”

Ralph Richard Banks

Let us sit upon the ground and tell sad stories about black women. Things can be tough. African-American women get all of the sexism white women have to deal with, and all of the racism black men have to deal with. Successful black men tend to fulfill their own self-loathing destiny by running away from black women (not me, I’m married to one). Cultural representations of them are used to sell syrup or chicken, or involve a black dude dressed up in a fat suit (if William Tecumseh Sherman were still alive, he’d be waging war against Martin Lawrence and Tyler Perry). And law professors at prestigious universities try to profiteer off of their difficulties.

That last one is somewhat recent. But I don’t know how else to describe the new book by a Stanford Law professor, Ralph Richard Banks. His upcoming book is entitled Is Marriage for White People? (affiliate link).

Now, if I were a blogger looking to make a quick buck, that’s exactly the kind of book I’d write. In fact, look for my upcoming book, “Why White People Can Afford To Piss Away Time & Money in Law School, But Blacks Can’t.”

But Ralph Banks isn’t a blogger, he’s a Stanford Law professor. Shouldn’t we expect less sensationalized bullcrap from him?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Stanford Law School: Why Are Your Professors Writing Books That Sound Like They’ve Been Written By Bloggers?”

deirdre dare expat allen and overy.jpgFor those of you who have missed Deidre Dare, the expat lawyer who was terminated from the Moscow office of Allen & Overy after writing a smutty steamy online novel, give thanks. She’s baaaaaack.

Deidre “To Russia With Donkey and Dwarf Love” Dare is struggling with the cash flow these days. The Columbia Law grad’s London lawsuit against Magic Circle firm A&O for unfair termination in its Russia office was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction, so she filed a new complaint in New York. As you might expect from an amateur sex novelist, the complaint is rather juicy. Dare (a.k.a. Deidre Clark), who was a senior attorney in A&O’s London, Singapore and Moscow offices from 2007 to 2009, claims that she was terminated after giving into — and later spurning — her supervising partner’s sexual advances. (Excerpt: “[Tony] Humphrey made sexual advances on Clark, who was intoxicated at the time. This conduct included intimate sexual contact. Humphrey kept saying “I love sex.”)

Dare is upping the ante on the lawsuit. In London, she sued for £3.5m, but in her Big Apple lawsuit, she’s hoping to take a bigger bite out of A&O: namely, $35 million in punitive and compensatory damages.

“I think NY will take jurisdiction,” Dare, a member of the New York Bar, told us by email. “And thank god for that.”

In the meantime, Dare is working on another project that is, er, rather racy….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Deidre Dare Wants $$$ For Her Sexy Little Adventure Story”

Where’s she going? Let’s find out….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “It’s Official: Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld, aka the Tiger Cub, Has Made Her College Decision!”

We are almost three months into my one-woman quest to convince the world (or at least ATL readers) that bigger is not always better. Isn’t that why Jamie Oliver is moonlighting as a lunch lady? Unfortunately, some people still are not convinced. So I called in an expert, Steven Harper (previously featured here).

Harper, a Kirkland & Ellis partner turned novelist, has been studying and writing about attorney unhappiness and Biglaw for some time. He also teaches a class to undergraduates at Northwestern University entitled “American Lawyers – Demystifying the Profession.” The class, which is now in its fourth year, offers undergrads “ten weeks of reality therapy” about what it means to be a lawyer. Although most of the students end up going on to law school, at least they are better informed.

What wisdom does Harper impart to his young charges?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Size Matters: Seriously, Size Matters”

Yale law professor Amy Chua, author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, has received a great deal of criticism — and, to be fair, book royalties — since her controversial parenting memoir’s publication in January. Many observers criticized her harsh, so-called “Chinese” parenting style as excessive, even abusive.

You can criticize all you want, but you can’t argue with success. Above the Law has confirmed that Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld, the oldest daughter of Amy Chua and fellow YLS professor Jed Rubenfeld, received her Harvard acceptance earlier this week. Sophia has already made up her mind that Harvard is where she’ll attend college. (Can you blame her for wanting to trade New Haven for Cambridge?)

UPDATE: Please see the update added to the end of this post. Sophia hasn’t officially accepted her Harvard acceptance (as her Yale professor mom insisted to the Yale Daily News). She is also considering Yale.

Some readers of Amy Chua’s book wondered whether it was premature of her to “end a parenting story when one child is only 15,” in the words of Elizabeth Chang of the Washington Post. Well, now we know how the story ends — very, very happily. As I previously observed, speaking from my own personal experience, “to Asian parents, sending a child to a top college is the ultimate vindication.” And colleges don’t get more “top” than Harvard (which is #1 in the current U.S. News rankings; but even if it weren’t this year, it would still be #1 in the minds of many Asian parents). [FN1]

Of course, it shouldn’t be shocking that Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld, who’s now 18, got into Harvard….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Tiger Mom Triumphant: Her Cub Got Into Harvard!”

Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Small Firms, Big Lawyers, one of Above the Law’s new columns for small-firm lawyers.

Seriously. Why? I don’t mean in a “because I couldn’t get a BigLaw job” way. I mean, “Why are you practicing law in a small firm?” And if you’re looking for work in a small firm, why? In fact, I really want to know why you’re a lawyer in the first place.

More importantly, your clients want to know. They might not realize it, and they probably will never ask you, but deep down, they want to know why. Why do they want to know? Because why you do what you do is what attracts clients; it’s what makes them want to work with you.

I can already hear you scoffing: “My clients work with me because I’m a good lawyer, or because they like me, or because they have a history with my firm, or because I’m so freakin’ good-looking.” Maybe so. Maybe that’s why they started working with you. But that’s not why they’ll stay with you. They’ll stay with you because of why you do what you do. So you need to figure out your why.

But how do you find your why? This guy can help you….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Small Firms, Big Lawyers: Why Are You a Small-Firm Lawyer?”

Move over, chick lit. Make way for “clerk lit”!

Over the past few years, we’ve seen a number of novels focused on the clerkship, a professional rite of passage for many a prestige-obsessed young lawyer. In these books, plucky law-clerk protagonists have tried to do justice while also holding on to their jobs (and their sanity, and even their lives).

One of the first was The Tenth Justice (1998), a thriller by Brad Meltzer that went on to become a bestseller. More recent examples of “clerk lit” include The Law Clerk (2007), by Scott Douglas Gerber, and Chambermaid (2007), by Saira Rao. (Rao’s buzz-generating book, which generated controversy because it was seen as based heavily on her clerkship for the notoriously difficult Judge Dolores Sloviter (3d Cir.), was discussed extensively in Above the Law’s pages.)

Today we bring you news of a new novel featuring a law clerk protagonist: Tropical Depression, by Arin Greenwood. It tells the story of Nina Barker, a neurotic young lawyer toiling away at a large New York law firm, who decides — after losing her job and her boyfriend — to leave it all behind, by accepting a clerkship with the chief justice of a faraway tropical island.

Let’s learn more about Tropical Depression and its author, Arin Greenwood — who, like her protagonist, graduated from a top law school and worked at a leading law firm, before accepting a clerkship on a remote Pacific island….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Tropical Depression: The Latest in ‘Clerkship Lit’”

* Sullivan & Cromwell is going before the Supreme Court — but not in a good way. SCOTUS grants cert to examine S&C’s mailroom of death. [ABA Journal]

* In happier news for S&C, they are working on AT&T’s $39 billion bid for T-Mobile — a deal that should generate massive fees for the many Am Law 100 firms involved. [Am Law Daily]

* Do you want to negotiate big-time deals? This Loyola law student has discovered the best way to land a big client. [Chicago Tribune]

* Professor John O. McGinnis reviews Walter Olson’s new book, Schools for Misrule: Legal Academia and an Overlawyered America. [Wall Street Journal via Instapundit]

* “Can Tim Wu save the internet?” The prominent professor, author of The Master Switch, is now advising the FTC. [Chronicle of Higher Education]

* “When are knowingly false statements of fact constitutionally unprotected?” Professor Eugene Volokh tackles this interesting issue. [Volokh Conspiracy]

* Wondering if Libya will get democratic presidential elections before Puerto Rico? [Blawg Review]

Page 20 of 321...161718192021222324...32