Lawyers

The popular conception of “lawyer” — as seen on television and in the movies — is that of a litigator. Understandably, law students are also susceptible to this view and will be so as long as the case method remains the pedagogy of choice in law school. Cases, by definition, are always about litigation. Both popular culture and the law school curriculum show lawyers most often in court or, at least, investigating the facts of the case. However, the truth of litigation practice is very different: the overwhelming majority of litigators’ work takes place outside the courtroom. Never mind that upwards of 90 percent of all lawsuits settle before trial or that most litigators’ spend their actual in-court time arguing procedural motions rather than the substance of the dispute. Oh, and there’s also doc review.

Anyway, most new associates and law students who aspire to Biglaw are going to be confronted with a question. To grossly generalize and simplify: am I a litigator or a transactional attorney? Many would say that there are distinct personality types best suited for each. Are you a win-lose kind of person or a win-win kind of person? Do you enjoy confrontation? Do you care if you ever see the inside of a courtroom? How important is the predictability of your schedule? And so on. (Of course we must acknowledge that wrestling over such questions is the classic “luxury problem.” For the majority of law students, what follows is, at most, of voyeuristic interest.)

For those in a position to choose, which Biglaw shop’s litigation departments offer the highest quality of life? We’ve dug into our survey data for answers…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Which Biglaw Firms Have The Most Satisfied Litigators?”

Ed note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Philip Segal reveals two tips that will help new associates keep their jobs longer.

While there are plenty of things they don’t teach in law school on the theory that “you’ll learn it on the job,” two of those omitted subjects would help new lawyers do a better job and probably hold on to a job longer.

The two are: how to find simple facts and how to bring in business.

Litigators don’t get the go-ahead to sue unless their clients are convinced that the other side has enough assets to make it worth the cost of litigation. Litigators, family lawyers, and many others often have basic factual questions, but law school does little to prepare you to find out:

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center…

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Megan Grandinetti — an attorney, health coach, and yoga teacher, whom we recently profiled — offers seven health tips for junior associates.

Law school does not prepare you for what it takes to be a junior associate. As a junior associate, you are experiencing a brand new kind of stress (the really bad kind!), which on its own can cause weight gain. Stress can also increase your blood pressure, prevent you from sleeping, give you unpleasant digestive symptoms (yuck), and wreak havoc on even the healthiest relationships.

Because you might be in a bit over your head, with very little time to take care of yourself, it is really easy to make choices that are bad for your health when you start your legal career.

Here are seven easy tips to help you make the first couple of years just a little bit healthier.

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center…


There is not nor probably will there ever be a definitive novel or film depicting the law firm experience. Law firm lawyers viewing The Firm or Michael Clayton or Ally McBeal are not going to identify with what they see on the screen. Novels like The Partner Track by Helen Wan or Anonymous Lawyer by Jeremy Blachman might be the closest thing (affiliate links).

A truly realistic portrayal of that particular white-collar salt mine would surely be too boring for the public. On the other hand, the comments from the ATL Insider Survey (14,000 responses and counting; thanks everyone) constitute a sort of undistilled document of the Biglaw hive mind. So what do we hear from this depressing, inspiring, contradictory chorus of lawyerly voices?

The ATL Insider Survey asks practicing lawyers to evaluate their employer in terms of compensation, training, culture and colleagues, firm morale, and hours. The survey also asks, “What would be useful or interesting for a law student or potential lateral to know about your firm?”

Reading through all the responses to this question, a handful of recurrent themes emerge….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Here’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Our Law Firms”

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Casey Berman, founder of Leave Law Behind, a blog and community that focuses on helping unhappy attorneys leave the law, discusses how current attorneys can improve their time management skills and successfully leave law behind.

I haven’t written a post in weeks. No way around that. And this gap is likely attributable to the same reason many of you may find it difficult to take that first step to leave the law.

I was busy.

Very busy. Busy with work (I head strategy for a tech company here in San Francisco), busy with my family (our three-year-old and six-year-old just started school), busy trying to spend quality time with my family, busy (kind of) trying to exercise and play some sports, busy trying to manage a lot of little things (getting new DMV license plate tags, health insurance papers, cleaning out the garage, attending the obligatory weekend toddler birthday party) and busy trying to get at least six hours of sleep.

So busy. So who has time to write a blog post? Who has time to even think about leaving the law, much less leave it?

Read more at the ATL Career Center…

The idea of “happiness” is the basis of an ever-growing body of research. In fact, while economists traditionally measure a nation’s prosperity by looking at GDP, there is a growing movement for them to consider a different measure, something akin to “Gross National Happiness.” One of the best-known efforts to move away from a reliance on GDP as a measure of national welfare is the UN’s Human Development Index, which amalgamates three metrics: lifespan, educational attainment, and adjusted real income. Then there are dozens of much more subjective surveys of national happiness, many of which find Costa Rica to be the happiest country in the world. Others say it’s Norway. (Then there is this preposterous “Happy Planet Index,” which ranks the U.S. at number 113, between Madagascar and Nigeria.)

Of course happiness research is performed in more narrowly targeted ways, such as examining specific professions. Earlier this year, Forbes reported on a “Career Bliss” survey of 65,000 employees that ranked “law firm associate” as the unhappiest job in America. (See Joe’s take on that survey here.)

This week, over at In the Belly of the Beast, Steven Harper is asking “Are Lawyers Becoming Happier?” Harper takes a look at two recent studies that suggest the answer is “yes.”

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “A Shinier, Happier Biglaw?”

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Sunny Choi shares some advice on ways to save money while fulfilling your CLE requirements.

CLE is one of the many banes of an attorney’s existence. If you’re like me, you’ve probably procrastinated on fulfilling your CLE requirements and the deadline is fast approaching.

As a non-Biglaw attorney, I’ve always had to find my own resources for CLE classes on the cheap. Whether you’re working for a small firm, engaged in your own practice, or working for the government, there are CLE classes available that are either free or relatively inexpensive.

Read on to discover how to get your CLE done without breaking the bank.

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center…

As was vividly demonstrated by our recent infographic, Biglaw’s summer associate classes have undergone a major and seemingly permanent contraction. For the most part, large — arguably bloated — summer associate classes are a thing of the past. Among the Am Law 50, only eight firms are bucking this downward trend, with actual increases in the size of their summer classes since 2007. These firms are a collection of Wall Street’s oldest and most elite white shoe mainstays: Sullivan & Cromwell, Cravath, Davis Polk, and their ilk. On average, these firms were founded 112 years ago (i.e., during the McKinley Administration). The outlier here is the relative upstart litigation powerhouse Quinn Emanuel, founded only back in 1987.

Besides the durability and strength that comes with such a refined pedigree, what other trends are apparent in this great downsizing of Biglaw’s summer associate classes?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “More On The Decline Of The Biglaw Summer Program”

Washington, D.C. has the most densely concentrated population of lawyers in the nation. The capital has an astounding 1,356 percent more lawyers per capita than New York. One in 12 District residents is an attorney. The nation’s capital is home to just one-fifth of one percent of the national population but accounts for one in every 25 of its lawyers. Could there be some correlation between this total saturation of D.C. with J.D.s and the seeming contempt that the rest of the country holds for the place? Washington’s negative perception problem is such that Slate’s political gabfest felt compelled to devote this week’s podcast to explore the proposition “Washington Is Really Not That Bad.” Examples of this not-badness included the fact that people don’t have to bribe officials to get their social security benefits. So it was kind of a low bar.

In any event, D.C.’s lawyers work in myriad capacities in Congress, government regulatory agencies, non-profits, and lobbying firms. But obviously Washington is very much a Biglaw town as well. The frustration and malaise brought on by the sequester and partisan gridlock seem to be affecting the business of Biglaw. As Lat noted yesterday, large firms there are struggling: revenue, demand and productivity are all lagging at D.C.-based law firms when compared to firms nationwide. So this might not be the ideal time to check in on how lawyers at large D.C.-based firms perceive their professional experiences. But we’ll do it anyway.

Our ATL Insider Survey (13,500+ responses and counting) asks attorneys at firms to evaluate their employers in terms of compensation, hours, training, morale, and culture. After the jump, we’ll look at how firms in Washington stack up in these categories — and how they compare to the national averages…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “ATL Law Firm Ratings: D.C. Edition”

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Liz Brown, author of Life After Law: Finding Work You Love With the J.D. You Have (affiliate link), offers suggestions for at least appearing engaged at the office while contemplating leaving the law behind.

Someone asked me a great question the other day. “I’m having a hard time staying engaged at the office,” she explained. “I want to leave, but I’m not sure what to do next. How do I keep up the appearance that I’m still interested in practicing law while I figure out my next move?”

This in-between stage is hard in so many ways. It can be hard to force yourself to work on cases when you no longer care about the outcome. It can be hard to make yourself meet your billable hour minimum when you find the work dull and unrewarding. It can be hard to act happy, or at least not to growl at people, when you desperately want to do something else. Here are seven strategies for the summer of your discontent.

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center…

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