Career Alternatives

If you want something versatile, buy a Swiss Army Knife.

Raise your hand if one of your reasons for going to law school was that somebody told you a law degree was “versatile” and that you can do a whole bunch of things with a J.D.

Keep your hand up if time and the recession have proven that “versatility” thing to be a complete load of BS.

Now extend one special finger if you blame somebody at your law school for filling your head with misleading platitudes about all the options you get when you go to law school.

If you are flipping the bird at thin air, maybe you should have gone to the University of Washington Law School School of Law. They at least give students subtle clues….

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* Who are the top plaintiffs firms in securities class-action litigation, ranked by 2010 total settlement value? [RiskMetrics / SCAS via WSJ Law Blog]

* Protip: if you go to a meeting at Deutsche Bank’s New York offices, avoid the men’s room. [Dealbreaker]

* This lawyer has an assistant with an unusual name. [Abuse of Discretion]

* We were impressed by the University of Chicago Law School’s new loan repayment assistance program (LRAP) — and we’re not alone. [The Belly of the Beast]

* Dov Charney’s latest accuser, Kimbra Lo, has an interesting past. Yes, there are pics. [Fashionista]

* You know the whole “anti-bullying” trend has gone too far when plaintiffs’ firms are setting up practice areas for it. [Constitutional Daily]

* Career alternatives for attorneys: meet Akila McConnell, traveler and writer. [Thrillable Hours / Legal Nomads]

* Is the “mommy track” a form of gender bias? [Lawyerist]

* Are prosecutors working on commission in one Colorado district? [ABA Journal]

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….

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The economy must be heating up, because lawyers are leaving their jobs to do all kinds of crazy things. I mean, maybe the legal economy is still crappy, since these people aren’t leaving for other legal jobs. But there must be a general sense of optimism if all of these people have decided to just “walk the Earth,” as it were.

We had the guy who decided to quit Sidley to walk across the country. I’m following him on Twitter. He’s near the Chesapeake and his feet hurt. Then we had the guy who left Skadden to move to Nepal.

Now we’ve got a person who is leaving her Biglaw job to take photos. No, she doesn’t have a job or anything, but she wants one!

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A view of Kathmandu (via The Kathmanduo).

On Wednesday we wrote about the great departure email sent out by Brian Emeott, a former corporate associate at Skadden in Chicago. Emeott, a 2004 graduate of Harvard College and 2008 graduate of Harvard Law School, picked up and moved to Kathmandu, Nepal.

Brian’s wife, Claudine Emeott, resigned from her own job in December and moved to Kathmandu in January. She’s in Nepal to advance a worthy cause: as a Kiva Fellow, Claudine is working with a local microfinance institution for three months.

In our original post, we applauded the Emeotts for their sense of adventure. You can follow them at their (excellent) blog, The Kathmanduo, as they “work, write, and photograph [their] way through beloved Nepal.”

Some of our commenters, however, were more skeptical. They wondered (and so did we): How are the Emeotts making this work, in financial terms? Are they trust fund babies?

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Chicago looks nice -- why is everyone fleeing?

Young lawyers of Chicago: What the heck is going on with you people? You seem to be losing it. Has the brutal Chicago winter driven you crazy? Do we need to put The People’s Therapist on the next plane to O’Hare?

Let’s look at the evidence. You’re quitting prestigious and lucrative law firm jobs to hike across the country with dogs. You’re getting involved in embarassing litigation with your ex-fiances (after allegedly hooking up with shady Vegas ladies named “Danielle”).

And you’re leaving Chicago — a city with excellent shopping and superb restaurants (I was at Alinea a few weeks ago, and it was amazing) — to go “find yourselves.” In the Himalayas.

Check out this latest departure memo, from an associate who just left Skadden….

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Ed. note: This post is by Will Meyerhofer, a former Sullivan & Cromwell attorney turned psychotherapist. He holds degrees from Harvard, NYU Law, and The Hunter College School of Social Work, and he blogs at The People’s Therapist. His new book, Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy, is available on Amazon.

I receive a steady stream of disaffected lawyers who want to change careers. They come to me for “the answer.”

The question is: “How do I get out of law and do something different?”

What gets under my skin is the expectation this is going to be easy. It isn’t.

Remaining in law and looking for something better poses challenges. You realize by now you can’t call a headhunter and go to a “lifestyle firm” — they only exist in the imaginations of fee-hungry “staffing professionals.” Hyphenated jobs, like “environmental-law” or “entertainment-law,” are misnomers. Choose anything fun and attach the word “law” to it — “food-law,” “sex-law” — and it’s still law.

More realistic “remain-in-law” solutions, like an in-house position or a government job, are hard to find because everyone’s thought of them. You can get there with sufficient determination — but it’s tough, and I can’t make it not-tough. No one can….

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The Cupcake Stop has rolled to a halt.

Today is a sad day for businesses established by lawyer-entrepreneurs. First we learned that David J. Stern, the South Texas Law grad who went on to become “Florida’s Foreclosure King,” will be relinquishing his crown and closing his once-thriving practice. And now we hear that Lev Ekster, the New York Law School alum who founded a popular mobile-cupcake business called Cupcake Stop, has decided to call it quits.

Longtime readers of Above the Law will recall Ekster and his business selling cupcakes out of a truck that roved around Manhattan. We first wrote about him in May 2009, when we were charmed by the NYLS grad’s creative response to being unable to obtain a law firm job. Spring 2009 wasn’t the best time to be looking for a Biglaw gig, as you might remember.

A few days after our first post, we got to taste Ekster’s cupcakes (and interview him). The cupcakes were delicious (not as amazing as my cousin’s, but pretty darn good).

In the months that followed, Ekster’s cupcake truck picked up momentum, literally and figuratively. On Twitter, @CupcakeStop acquired almost 16,000 followers.

And then today it all came to a screeching halt. What happened?

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Back in September 2010, we bestowed Lawyer of the Day honors upon David J. Stern, aka Florida’s “Foreclosure King.” We noted Stern’s rise into the ranks of self-made millionaires, despite not having attended some fancy first-tier law school. (Stern graduated from the South Texas College of Law, a fourth-tier school.)

We marveled at Stern’s wealth: a $14 million mansion here, a $7 million condo there, Ferraris and Porsches galore, and a 130-foot, $20 million yacht. We noted that Stern, thanks to the success of his booming foreclosure-law practice, was “running financial circles around all those Stanford and NYU law grads who wound up as Biglaw partners.”

Alas, in the past few months, David Stern’s fortunes have taken a turn for the worse….

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Wake up, Mabel - it's time for your walk.

Reading law firm departure memos is like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re going to get.

Sometimes you taste bitterness. Sometimes the flavor is spicy hot. Sometimes you get a little Costa Rica crunch.

And sometimes you get… this, which was sent to everyone at Sidley Austin yesterday by an associate leaving the Chicago office:

Today is my last day at Sidley. You may keep in touch with me at [email protected], through Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/tyler.coulson, or via Twitter, @ibuildnosystem.

Beginning next week, I am walking from Delaware to California with a tent and my dog, Mabel. I will have limited access to email, but will check messages frequently.

Geo. Tyler Coulson

The Forrest Gump translation: “Once was a time when me and Sidley was like peas and carrots — not anymore. I’m not a smart man, but I do know what quitting is.”

One Sidley tipster had this reaction: “[T]he greatest reason to leave big law ever. Please keep my name and email anonymous, as I have no ambitions to leave my firm to walk across the nation.”

Said a second Sidley source: “Coolest ‘f**k you I quit’ email…. Note the ‘High’ importance.”

But is it really a total “f**k you” message? We reached out to Tyler Coulson, and he had a perfectly reasonable explanation….

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