Books

Ian Graham is the author of Unbillable Hours: A True Story, which was published earlier this month. The book is a memoir of Graham’s time at Latham & Watkins, where he spent about five years as a litigation associate.

Unbillable Hours is not, however, a Latham exposé (which I’d eagerly read, by the way). Rather, the book centers on Graham’s work on a major pro bono case. The book’s publisher describes it as follows:

Landing a job at a prestigious L.A. law firm, complete with a six figure income, signaled the beginning of the good life for Ian Graham. But the harsh reality of life as an associate quickly became evident. The work was grueling and boring, the days were impossibly long, and Graham’s main goal was to rack up billable hours.

But when he took an unpaid pro bono case to escape the drudgery, Graham found the meaning in his work that he’d been looking for. As he worked to free Mario Rocha, a gifted young Latino who had been wrongly convicted at 16 and sentenced to life without parole, the shocking contrast between the quest for money and power and Mario’s desperate struggle for freedom led Graham to look long and hard at his future as a corporate lawyer.

Yesterday I chatted with Ian Graham about his book, his time at Latham, and how he made the transition from a legal career to a writing career.

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* Professor Orin Kerr wonders: Could Roe be indirectly responsible for the religious imbalance on the Court? [Volokh Conspiracy]

* Speaking of SCOTUS, Tom Goldstein suggested that an endorsement of Elena Kagan by Miguel Estrada (pictured) “has the potential to swing at least a half-dozen Republican votes.” Well, here you go. [PostPartisan / Washington Post]

* And speaking of SCOTUS and voting, how might the nomination of Lady Kaga affect the 2010 midterm elections? [Political Junkie / NPR]

* Could you reduce the law school experience to a six-word short story? [TaxProf Blog]

* Here are considerably more than six words about law school, in an open letter from a law school wife. [Lawyerist]

* Congratulations to lawyer-turned-writer Gregory Mose, whose novel Stunt Road was just honored by the Independent Publisher Book Awards. [Independent Publisher]

Remember Kaavya Viswanathan? She’s the Harvard graduate who, while still in high school, landed a two-book deal worth a reported $500,000. The first book, a young adult / chick-lit novel entitled How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life, was published in April 2006, during Viswanathan’s sophomore year at Harvard.

And then things fell apart. To quote the blog Sepia Mutiny, “Kaavya Viswanathan got rich, got caught, and got ruined.” Shortly after the publication of Opal Mehta, the Harvard Crimson reported that various passages in the book appeared “strikingly similar” to portions of two young adult novels by Megan McCafferty.

Viswanathan was widely accused of plagiarizing — not just from McCafferty, but from Sophie Kinsella, Meg Cabot and Salman Rushdie. Her subsequent fall from grace, including the cancellation of her book and movie deals, made national and even international headlines (due to coverage back in her native India). She claimed that the similarities between her book and prior published works were unintentional, but given the number and extent of the apparently borrowed passages, some were incredulous. (For samples, see Wikipedia.)

After graduating from Harvard College in 2008, she went on to Georgetown Law, where she’s a member of the GULC class of 2011. Her arrival at Georgetown made Newsweek in February 2009:

Viswanathan is a first-year law student at Georgetown University, where Stephen Glass earned a J.D. after being fired from The New Republic for fabricating a series of articles….

How’d she manage to get accepted? Applicants can submit supplemental essays to explain themselves to the admissions committee, says Dean of Admissions Andrew Cornblatt. “It’s impossible to get amnesia about what we may have heard,” he says. “But in all cases we treat them just like any other applicant.”

It seems Georgetown isn’t the only institution treating Viswanathan “just like any other applicant.” Despite the tough fall recruiting season and her controversial past, Viswanathan, who just finished her 2L year, has landed a coveted summer associate position at a top law firm — one of Biglaw’s biggest and best names, in fact….

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Grover Cleveland is the author of Swimming Lessons for Baby Sharks: The Essential Guide to Thriving as a New Lawyer, an advice book for attorneys published earlier this year. As a partner at Foster Pepper PLC, one of the Northwest’s largest law firms, he helped many new attorneys learn how to practice law. While at Foster Pepper, he was named a Rising Star for three years in a row by Washington Law and Politics magazine.

Grover now holds an environmental policy position in Seattle. In this role, he has seen the world from the client’s perspective. This broad range of experience both as a supervising attorney and as a client gives him a unique perspective on the skills new lawyers need to succeed. (Swimming Lessons for Baby Sharks also incorporates the wisdom of dozens of other lawyers that he interviewed in the course of his research.)

Earlier this week, we chatted with Grover about his book, advice he offers to young lawyers, and the state of the law firm economy, among other topics.

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Ed. Note: Our post on harsh rejection letters generated a lot of talk among people interested in applying to Small Law jobs. Donna Gerson — the author of Choosing Small, Choosing Smart — provided us with a list of tips that former-Biglaw associates should consider when applying to smaller firms.

I spend an enormous amount of time interviewing small firm practitioners throughout the U.S. and speaking to law students about the expectations small firm lawyers have when it comes to interviewing, hiring, and promotion.

The feedback from SOLOSEZ, the ABA’s solo and small firm mailing list, was on point. Take the time to write to an actual person at the firm and never use a “To Whom It May Concern” salutation. Mass mailings are the kiss of death and lawyers know when they’re getting a mail-merge monstrosity. Know what practice areas the firm engages in and write a cover letter that addresses one’s interest in those practice areas. An applicant’s cover letter ought to connect the dots for an employer and not simply recite one’s résumé. And – of course – job-seekers need to clean up their Internet presence. I cannot even begin to tell you some of the atrocious (and hilarious) stories I’ve heard over the years from legal employers about Facebook.

So what should former-Biglaw associates keep in mind when applying to Small Law?

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Ed. note: Gretchen Rubin is the author of The Happiness Project. The book has been on the New York Times bestseller list for 15 weeks, ever since its publication (including hitting the #1 spot).

Although she’s now a writer, with a total of five bestselling and/or critically acclaimed books to her name, Rubin started her career as a lawyer. She graduated from Yale Law School, where she served as editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Journal, and clerked on the U.S. Supreme Court, for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Feel free to check out her blog, follow her on Twitter, or join the Happiness Project Facebook page.

We asked Gretchen Rubin to offer us some happiness advice aimed at a lawyerly audience. Her guest post appears below.

By Gretchen Rubin

A few years ago, I decided to do a happiness project. I spent a year testing the wisdom of the ages, the current scientific studies, and the lessons from popular culture about how to be happier. From my experience, to be happier, it helps to think about the little things in life—and also the big things. Here are some ideas specifically targeted to lawyers:

Tackle the little things: Happiness can seem like a lofty, abstract goal, but a great place to start is with your own body and daily schedule.

Get enough sleep. We adjust to chronic sleep deprivation and don’t realize how much it weighs on us. According to one study, a bad night’s sleep was one of the top two factors that upset people’s daily moods at work (along with tight work deadlines — another problem many lawyers face). It’s tempting to stay up late, especially if that’s the fun part of your day, but the morning comes fast. (Here are some sleep tips.)

Get some exercise—preferably outside. You don’t have to train for a marathon. Just go for a ten-minute walk at lunchtime. People who exercise are healthier, more energetic, think more clearly, sleep better, feel cheerier, and perform better at work. (Here are some tips for sticking to an exercise routine.)

More happiness pointers, after the jump.

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* What we talk about when we talk about federalism: University of Chicago law professor Alison LaCroix, author of the just-published Ideological Origins of American Federalism, discusses the relevance of federalism for current policy debates. [Political Bookworm / Washington Post]

* Speaking of the Founding, if there’s another Constitutional Convention, I demand that all delegates wear wigs. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Mother sues hospital after the staff gave her the wrong baby to breast feed. So, I guess she won’t be appearing on the Project Wet Nurse reality show I just made up in my head. [BL1Y]

* What does Google think about the LSAT? [LSAT Blog]

* Minorities do better than whites when it comes to getting hired into tenure track positions at American law schools. But don’t start getting melanin injections just yet. [ABA Journal]

* Becoming a lawyer for the Catholic Church is a lot like becoming a lawyer for any other organization. [Slate]

* Former Duke lacrosse head coach Mike Pressler settles his lawsuit with the university. I’d say that he should go to a strip club to celebrate, but that would probably look bad. [NewsObserver]

The benefits of approval are bounded only by the limits of human creativity and imagination.


Google, to Judge Denny Chin, in a brief before today’s hearing about Google’s class action settlement with authors and publishers over Google Book Search.

Catcher in the Rye JD Salinger.jpegJ.D. Salinger, the celebrated (and reclusive) author of The Catcher in the Rye, passed away yesterday. He was 91.
Salinger died of natural causes at his home in Cornish, New Hampshire, according to a statement from Salinger’s literary representative.
Is there a legal angle here?

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New York Times NYT newspaper.jpgIf you happen to be on the frigid East Coast today, currently experiencing the coldest temperatures of the season, grab yourself a cup of cocoa and a copy of the Sunday New York Times. The NYT often has articles of interest to a legal audience, but this weekend’s edition has an especially high number of stories either by or about the boldface names of the legal profession. To wit:
John Yoo John C Yoo John Choon Yoo law professor.jpg1. Power of Attorney: Questions for John Yoo. Deborah Solomon interviews John Yoo, the Berkeley law professor perhaps most well-known for his authorship of the so-called “torture memos.” Considering her liberal politics and modus operandi as an interviewer — we’ve previously described her as “snarky, cranky, exceedingly direct” — we were expecting her to go to town on Yoo.
But Professor Yoo actually comes across very well in the short Q-and-A (and is looking newly svelte in the accompanying photo). He’s smart, funny, and charming — not a surprise to us, based on our personal interactions with him, but perhaps a surprise to some who know only the cartoon villain depicted by the mainstream media.
2. The 30-Minute Interview: Jonathan L. Mechanic. An interesting interview with real estate super-lawyer Jonathan Mechanic, chairman of the real estate department of Fried Frank (and previously profiled here). We learn that Mechanic, in addition to being a top real estate attorney, is also a real estate investor: he owns retail and commercial properties in Bergen County, NJ (where we grew up).
Three more stories, after the jump.

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