I’m a midlevel associate at a big firm in NY. I haven’t been on a real vacation in 1 year and 43 days, but who’s counting. Back in February I booked a trip to West Africa that I’m scheduled to go on this fall, but I just got news that two of my deals are scheduled to close when I’d be away. The firm will never outright tell me to cancel my trip, so if I voluntarily cancel it, they wouldn’t reimburse me and I’d be out $5,000. But I’m worried that going would be a lousy career move. Any advice?
Out of Africa
Dear Out of Africa -
Like you, most associates believe that there are only two options when it comes to ill-timed vacations: go and be paranoid or cancel and be enraged. But what if there was a way to transform this lose-lose situation into a brilliant career move?
If you decide to cancel your vacation, instead of fantasizing about bringing a gun to work, channel your anger into becoming a martyr. A canceled trip isn’t worth anything unless people know about your heroism, so change your signature to a quote from Heart of Darkness and then send an email announcing that because you’re a “team player,” you’ve canceled the exorbitant trip that you’ve been planning for a mere eight months. Decorate your office with taxidermy gazelle heads as a constant reminder of your sacrifice. If possible, rappel to work.
If you decide to go, a great way to quell your paranoia and manage the damage is by reassuring everyone that you had a miserable time. Partners love a ruined vacation story, so upon your return, scratch your face with Power Point slides and then mention that the trip was terrific, except for the part where you were mauled by a lion. Twice. The note to your file that says “abandoned team during critical deal closing” will now be qualified by “animal attack” and the partnership will be hard pressed to use the vacation against you.
A few years ago I canceled a trip because of work, and I can tell you firsthand that the brownie points I earned by staying were worth less than ten days in Ecuador, and far less than a trip to West Africa. Firms don’t offer associates “vacation days” as a practical joke, and you’re entitled to take them. There is never a good time to take a vacation, and it’s up to you to have the courage not to cancel. Remember, the meek never inherit anything. Except the earth.
* Alaskan Republicans think Sarah Palin has enough on her plate preparing for Thursday’s debate. They’ve filed a proposed order to stop the Troopergate investigation and a motion for a new judge. [Courthouse News Service]
* The Ninth Circuit rules that San Francisco can make employers contribute to a fund for universal health care. This could take ERISA to new places. [New York Times]
We know a lot of our readers come here via a desperate attempt to put off billing hours. We encourage so-called “procrastination” on the “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” theory.
But we must ever be vigilant against those who would intrude on our precious zoning-out time with false promises of increased productivity and happier living. Stanford philosophy professor John Perry is one such individual. He has a website devoted to making the most of your procrastination time. The Wall Street Journal reports Perry’s core message:
[S]tructured procrastination involves doing small, low-priority tasks to build a sense of accomplishment and the energy to tackle more important jobs. Mr. Perry, a chronic procrastinator, suggests followers choose an important task, but defer work on it while tackling others. “Don’t be ashamed of self-manipulation,” he says.
If Perry really is “a chronic procrastinator” then how the hell did he motivate to publish his own website? Sounds like Perry needs to do a little more work, and a little less butting into other people’s free time.
Unfortunately, Perry is not alone. After the jump.
* Would somebody please design an appropriate scoring system so we can gamble on this bracket? [TechCrunch]
* Corporette continues their ongoing series of things every girl needs in her office. Apparently, one pair of panties isn’t enough for today’s working woman. [Corporette]
* Congratulations to Allyson Newton Ho, a member of the Elect (OT 2002 / O’Connor) and wife of Texas Solicitor General Jim Ho, who joins Morgan Lewis as a partner — the latest addition to former Texas SG Ted Cruz’s appellate litigation dream team. [Morgan, Lewis & Bockius]
* The first duty of an in-house counsel really needs to be CYA. [Law and More]
If you’ve been reading ATL for a while, you may recall our copious coverage of Shanetta Cutlar. She’s the high-powered chief of the Justice Department’s Special Litigation Section, and she has a reputation — perhaps deserved, perhaps not — for being challenging to work for.
In case you don’t remember Ms. Cutlar, this message from a former underling, not previously published, sums things up nicely:
I laughed when I saw Shanetta on your blog. Of all the bosses that I have ever had, I probably could not remember any of their names — except for Shanetta. On the first day, [one female intern] got on the elevator with several people, including Shanetta. She had not yet been introduced to anybody except for the intern superivisors. When she got back to her cubicle/office, she was called to Shanetta’s office, where she was thoroughly reamed out by Shanetta for not acknowledging her presence in the elevator. The poor girl was practically traumatized and afterwards was crying at her desk….
The entire office — and it was a large one — had a childish atmosphere that was similar to an elementary school playground. Shanetta was the bully/popular girl who was constantly surrounded by her clique, and who was constantly embarrassing other people merely for her own amusement. She called an entire staff meeting in order to publicly reprimand one person for going shopping during their lunch break.
She called [another intern] into her office once in order to berate him about not filling out a form correctly in preparation for an out-of-state trip…. Is it really necessary for the Section Chief to micromanage intern travel forms? All-in-all, Shanetta has something akin to the “little man syndrome,” only it would be more aptly named entitled “big-mean-ass-woman syndrome.”
Anyway, in response to reader requests for updates on SYC, we finally have some news to report. Shanetta Cutlar has been sued by one former DOJ employee, Ty Clevenger, in federal court (D.D.C.).
Clevenger’s pro se lawsuit, filed against Cutlar and several other current and former Justice Department employees, makes claims under Bivens, the Rehabilitation Act (disability discrimination), RICO (a DOJ section as a RICO enterprise = awesomeness), invasion of privacy, libel, and civil conspiracy.
Our favorite part is this tidbit from paragraph 15: “Defendant Cutlar publicly berated a new attorney…. [because that attorney] used a paperclip on a document instead of a binder clip.” You can check out the full complaint via the link below.
Mock in-house counsel if you want to (and apparently many of you “want to“), but those jobs still pay great money. A new study says that the average pay for in-house attorneys is $236,000.
Maybe that is what CNBC was talking about when they promised aspiring law grads $200K salaries.
The numbers were even better at the top. According to the ABA Journal:
The average cash compensation, including bonuses, amounts to about $700,000 for general counsel and more than $900,000 for chief legal officers, according to a survey by the legal consulting firm Hildebrandt International. Long-term incentives increased the average total compensation to nearly $1.5 million for general counsel and nearly $2 million for chief legal officers, according to a press release summarizing the survey.
It seems that even as companies are shedding in-house counsel jobs, the attorneys that hang on are making good money.
Unfortunately for those working for law firms, corporations might look to save money by decreasing their reliance on outside counsel. The National Law Journal reports:
Most companies — 67% — said they expect no change in the number of law firms they plan to use in 2008, but nearly a third — 29% — said they anticipate decreasing that number.
The report doesn’t contain an analysis of the hours in-house counsel have to work for their salary. But law firm associates usually cannot claim that they work less than their in-house counterparts.
So while the jobs might be harder than ever to get, in-house still seems to be a great exit option. Unless you were in-house at: Bear, Lehman, WaMu, AIG, or whichever company spits the bit next.
Regardless, the campaign is set to “re-introduce” Sarah Palin. Palin, and McCain this time, sat down with Katie Couric again. (I guess Mel B was unavailable.) The new interview that will air sometime after the debate.
The McCain-Palin ticket is apparently pumped about how the new interview went. They want CBS to air the full interview, unedited. But the campaign is mad that CBS leaked a snippet of last week’s Couric interview that did not air:
Of concern to McCain’s campaign, however, is a remaining and still-undisclosed clip from Palin’s interview with Couric last week that has the political world buzzing.
The Palin aide, after first noting how “infuriating” it was for CBS to purportedly leak word about the gaffe, revealed that it came in response to a question about Supreme Court decisions.
After noting Roe vs. Wade, Palin was apparently unable to discuss any major court cases.
There was no verbal fumbling with this particular question as there was with some others, the aide said, but rather silence.
I’ll pause for criticisms about the liberal media, northeastern elites, and my mother.
Last week we brought you the rumor that Seyfarth Shaw and Squire Sanders were thinking of merging into “The Super S4 League of Justice.” Seyfarth has declined to comment on the rumor, but they have added a whole slew of attorneys in Los Angeles. Ken Youmans, managing partner of Seyfarth L.A., announced the new hires:
We are pleased to announce that our partnership voted today in favor of welcoming a group of attorneys to join our LA office. The group includes three equity partners, three income partners, four associates and two secretaries. While the group needs to act upon the partnership offer and the associates need to be offered an opportunity to work with us, the group is expected to start October 1, or soon thereafter. With the addition of these attorneys, we continue to strengthen our Corporate and Real Estate presence on the West Coast. We will share more specific information about our newest Firm members in the days and weeks ahead.
But where did these equity partners come from? Unfortunately all we have for you is more rumors, but tipsters tell us that Seyfarth’s new hires are Sonnenschein’s defectors.
As we know, it’s not a great time to be losing equity partners in California.
Seyfarth offered the following about the various rumors surrounding the firm:
In the course of running our business, we regularly explore a variety of strategic options for the firm. As a matter of policy, we do not comment on these matters.
There is a whole lot of whispering concerning Seyfarth. If you’d like to add your rumor to the mill, please feel free.
We reported last month that the ABA made it easier for law firms to outsource legal work. But as many commenters pointed out, there would need to be a reason for firms to do that and risk a reputation hit.
Perhaps the market crisis has given firms the perfect opening to begin using low cost legal workers outside the United States.
The Hindu Business Line reports that India is “lawyering-up”:
At a time when the off-shoring industry is plagued with instances of employee lay-offs, companies providing legal process outsourcing (LPO) services are on a hiring spree as demand for litigation services from the US rises.
In the next six months to a year, several LPOs have plans to at least double headcount in order to cater to the increased work flow resulting from the recent turmoil in the US that has seen several financial institutions collapse.
The Wall Street crisis has resulted in increased litigation related to bankruptcy, mergers & acquisitions and other related aspects.
We’ve said before that the first front of this outsourcing battle would be fought over document intensive litigation, when clients demanded the lowest possible costs. Does that sound like a bankruptcy proceeding to anybody?
Indian businesspeople watch CNBC too:
For US companies and law firms, the pressure to put a throttle on costs is immense. By outsourcing to Indian vendors, companies can save about 70 per cent in costs vis-À-vis law firms in America.
After the jump, how Indian firms save 70 cents on the dollar.
Last week we told you that Harvard and Stanford law schools were enacting sweeping grade reform. Reactions came in from students and alumni from many top schools. One close friend emailed:
If Harvard had this when we were in school, I’d be emailing you from DPW right now.
Suffice it to say, the friend emailed from a little further down the Vault list.
But to be clear, HLS doesn’t have anything just yet. Dean Kagan announced, “the new classifications, much as at Yale and Stanford, will be Honors-Pass-Low Pass-Fail.” She did not speak on the crucial question of how honors would be determined.
On the other hand, Stanford did announce precisely how their honors would be determined (“book prizes”). Some commenters criticized the decision because it could not be mapped onto a traditional four-point system:
The important issue with any grading system is whether the grades can be aggregated into one number–the GPA–and the students ranked on that basis. The A-F system is mapped onto the 0-4.0 scale (or 0-8, at HLS, until now). The HP-F system is not mapped onto any numerical scale. This makes it impossible to precisely rank students (without developing your own formula).
HLS could still end up with a four-point system of some description. As one reader pointed out:
Honors = A
Pass = B
Low Pass = C
Fail = Elie
Unless you believe the deans’ quest for “pedagogical excellence,” there is an open question as to why two top institutions would radically change how law students are judged.
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 seven years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note that Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney are still in Hong Kong and will stay FOR THE REMAINDER OF THIS WEEK. We still have a handful of available slots for meetings with our Asia Chronicles fans. If we have not been in touch lately, reach out and let us know when we could meet! There is no need for an agenda at all. Most of our in-person meetings on these trips are with folks who understand that improving a legal practice through lateral hiring is an information-driven process that takes time to handle correctly.
Regarding trends in lateral US associate hiring in Hong Kong, we of course keep much of what we know off of this blog. Based on placement revenue, though, Kinney is having one of our most successful years ever in Asia. We are helping a number of our law firm clients with M&A, fund formation, cap markets, project finance, FCPA and disputes openings. These are very specific needs in many cases, so a conversation with us before jumping in may be helpful. As always, we like to be sure to get the maximum number of interviews per submission, using a well-informed, highly targeted, and selective approach, taking into account short, medium and long-term career aims.
Making a well informed decision during a job search is easier said than done – the information we provide comes from 10 years of being the market leader in US attorney placements at the top tier firms in Asia. There is no substitute for having known a hiring partner since he/she was an associate or for having helped a partner grow his or her practice from zip to zooming, and this is happily where we stand today – with years of background information on just about every relevant person in all the markets we serve, and most especially in Hong Kong/China/Greater Asia. So get in touch and get a download from us this week if we can fit it in, or soon in any case!
The legal industry is being disrupted at every level by technological advances. While legal tech entrepreneurs and innovators are racing to create a more efficient and productive future, there is widespread indifference on the part of attorneys toward these emerging technologies.
When the LexisNexis Cloud Technology Survey results were reported earlier this year, it showed that attorneys were starting to peer less skeptically into the future, and slowly but surely leaning more toward all the benefits the law cloud has to offer.
Because let’s face it, plenty of attorneys are perhaps a bit too comfortable with their “system” of practice management, which may or may not include neon highlighters, sticky notes, dog-eared file folders, and a word processing program that was last updated when the term “raise the roof” was still de rigueur.