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….
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?
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….
On the Quote of the Day posted over the weekend, a commenter wrote: “In my head I’ve changed the name of this blog from ‘Above the Law’ to ‘The law is f**king stupid and dumb and anyone who goes into it is an idiot forever and did I mention it’s dumb.’ There are still reasons to pursue law.”
This is a fair point. Here at ATL, we do want to encourage debate about the value of a legal education, and we do want people who are thinking of going to law school — many of whom read this site — to go to law school for good reasons, after engaging in sufficient reflection and research. But we don’t want readers to mistake this site for one of the “law school scam” blogs, or to think that we’re opposed to law school for all people under all circumstances. (Of course we aren’t, if for no reason other than self-interest: the more law students and lawyers out there, the more potential readers for Above the Law.)
A prudential perspective, because it appeared in Slate’s advice column, Dear Prudence (alongside an inquiry from a woman dating a wonderful man who unfortunately has a “micropenis”):
I am just a little over a year away from becoming a lawyer, and I’m miserable because I hate it. I wasn’t forced into the profession. I just mistakenly believed that since I loved to read and debate, law was the natural progression. But I don’t like law, and I’m not applying myself to it wholeheartedly. I can’t imagine being in this field for the rest of my life or even a few years. My parents have sacrificed and spent so much on my education, and I have no idea how to tell them that I made a mistake. Worse, my mom thinks this is my dream, and I don’t have the heart to tell her that it isn’t. The only thing that really brings me joy is escaping into books that have nothing to do with law. Please help me.
This Law of Attraction is a novel by Allison Leotta, a federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C. It’s a fun, fast-paced read; I could hardly put it down, finishing it in two sittings. I concur with the blurb by Harvard law professor and criminal defense attorney Alan Dershowitz: “I loved this novel. Law of Attraction is realistic, gritty, and filled with twists and turns. Allison Leotta’s female lawyer character is compelling and engaging. This is a great read for anyone who loves legal thrillers, cares about domestic violence, or wonders how lawyers can live with themselves.”
(Disclosure: I also enjoyed Law of Attraction because it contains an Above the Law cameo. After the protagonist, assistant U.S. attorney Anna Curtis, gets in trouble, her misadventures wind up on ATL (pp. 217-18). The novel even contains fictionalized comments from the peanut gallery of Above the Law commenters — which are hilarious.)
I spoke with Leotta recently, while she was in New York to meet with her agent and do a book reading. We discussed such subjects as why, and how, she wrote her novel; the Department of Justice review process for the book; how she juggles her day job as a prosecutor, her writing career, and being the mother to two kids; and her advice to lawyers who want to become writers.
Or maybe news you could have used. Apologies for not reminding you, as we’ve done in past years, about the application deadline for the Department of Justice’s Honors Program. The application deadline for the 2010-2011 program fell on September 7, 2010. [FN1]
(If you’re not already familiar with how the Honors Program works, read our prior post or visit the official DOJ website. The short description: “The highly competitive Honors Program is the only way that the Department hires entry-level attorneys.” Most applicants to the program are 3Ls and judicial law clerks.)
Yesterday, if you checked the DOJ website, you could find out whether you were selected for an interview (although you couldn’t tell which DOJ component had selected you). This morning, official interview notifications went out to selected candidates. To those of you selected for interviews, congratulations! Feel free to crow about your success or trade tips with other interviewees in the comments to this open thread.
Getting picked for an Honors Program interview is quite an accomplishment, especially given the still-tough legal job market and the many 3Ls and law clerks searching for jobs. Word on the street is that the DOJ received 3,000 applications for an estimated 160 vacancies in the Honors Program. Says a source: “[T]hat’s nearly 20 applicants per position. Which is actually pretty low by comparison with clerkship apps, I bet, but still daunting.”
If you didn’t get selected for an interview, or if you missed the application deadline altogether, don’t despair. Here’s another opportunity for graduating law students who are interested in working for the federal government. And the deadline has not yet passed — but it’s fast approaching….
The news has been all over the place over the past 20 hours, but it seems like a lot of people want to talk about the passing of Greg Giraldo. The comedian died yesterday. TMZ reported that he died of an apparent drug overdose.
UPDATE: Lat here. Giraldo also graduated from my alma mater, Regis High School. I’ve heard from a number of fellow Regians who knew him at Regis and/or Columbia; they describe him as a great guy. (Speaking of Regis, I hope to see some of you at the Regis Bar Association reception next month, on October 19.)
Apparently this biographical information has surprised many people, to the point that we’ve received a number of emails asking us if it’s true. Is it that hard to believe that an HLS grad and Skadden associate decided to do something radically different with his life?
I knew about Giraldo’s past, even though he never really talked about it…
The holiday season is upon us, and yet again, you have no idea what to get for the fickle lawyer in your life. We’re here to help. Even if your bonus check hasn’t arrived yet, any one of the gifts we’ve highlighted here could be a worthy substitute until your employer decides to make it rain.
We’ve got an eclectic selection for you to choose from, so settle in by that stack of documents yet to be reviewed and dig in…
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: email@example.com.
We currently have a very exciting and rare type of in-house opening in China at one of the world’s leading internet and social media companies. Our client is looking for an IP Transactional / TMT / Licensing attorney with 2 to 6 years experience. The new hire will be based in Shenzhen or Shanghai. Mandarin is not required (deal documentation will be in English) but is preferred. A solid reason to be in China and a commitment to that market is required of course. This new hire will likely be US qualified (but could also be qualified in UK or other jurisdictions) and with experience and training at a top law firm’s IP transactional / TMT practice and could be currently at a law firm or in-house. Qualified candidates currently Asia based, Europe based or US based will be considered. The new hire’s supervisors in this technology transactions in-house team are very well regarded US trained IP transactional lawyers, with substantial experience at Silicon Valley firms. The culture and atmosphere in this in-house group and the company in general is entrepreneurial, team oriented, and the work is cutting edge, even for a cutting edge industry. The upside of being in an important strategic in-house position in this fast growing and world leading internet company is of the “sky is the limit” variety. Its a very exciting place to be in China for a rising IP transactional lawyer in our opinion, for many reasons beyond the basic info we can share here in this ad / post. This is a special A+ opportunity.
If your firm is in ‘go’ mode when it comes to recruiting lateral partners with loyal clients, then take this quiz to see how well you measure up. Keep track of your ‘yes’ and ‘no’ responses.
1. Does your firm have a clearly defined strategy of practice groups that are priorities of growth for your office? Nothing gets done by random chance, but with a clear vision for the future. Identify the top practice areas for which you wish to add lateral partners. Seek input from practice group leaders and get specifics on needs, outcomes, and ideal target profiles.
2. In addition to clarifying your firm’s growth strategy, are you still open to the hire of a partner outside of your plan? I’ve made several placements that fit this category. The partner’s practice was not within the strategic growth plan of my client, but once the two parties started talking with each other, we all saw how it could indeed be a seamless fit. Be open to “Opportunistic Hires.” You never know where your next producing partner might come from, so you have to be open to it. I will be the first to admit that there is a quirky element of randomness in recruiting.
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