Career Alternatives

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?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Skadden Associate Who Picked Up and Moved to Nepal: An Update”

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….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Another Great Departure Memo: Skadden Associate Trades Chicago for… Nepal?”

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 gtcoulson@gmail.com, 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….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Want Out of Biglaw? Take a Hike!”

David Kelly: Katten associate and acclaimed hip-hop artist.

* Looking for a last-minute gift idea for the civil-liberties-loving lawyer in your life? Kash recommends this underwear. [Forbes]

* Actress Zooey Deschanel is suing footwear maker Steve Madden. Does her lawsuit have legs? [Fashionista]

* Law professors might not excel at practicing law, but “they often are pretty good at the enterprise of being a law professor.” [Underbelly]

* What’s law firm diversity like over in London? Lawyers who are “BME” — “black and ethnic minority” — are growing in number at City law firms. [The Guardian (U.K.)]

* Career alternatives: hip-hop artist? By day, he’s David J. Kelly of Katten Muchin Rosenman; by night, he’s “Cap D.” [WSJ Law Blog]

* Plaintiffs’ firms make new partners too. [Motley Rice (press release)]

* Don’t forget: get your holiday card contest entries in by 11:59 PM today! [Above the Law]

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.)

We’ve previously written in defense of going to law school. See, e.g., my post with that very title.

And last month we solicited from you, our readers, some pro-law-school thoughts. Let’s explore some of them, shall we?

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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”):

Dear Prudence,

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.

—Inadmissible

So what did Prudence say to “Inadmissible”?

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I don’t want to step on Oprah’s toes, but I have a book recommendation for you: Law of Attraction. No, it has nothing to do with this law of attraction. Yes, you will enjoy it.

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.

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