Advice

Lately, it seems that all of the regular legal media outlets have turned an eye toward women and their success in the profession. For example, earlier this week, we discussed whether women will ever be able to close the gender gap in Biglaw equity partnership ranks. Now, we’re faced with another “important” question: can older career women sport longer hairstyles?

According to some, such a look isn’t considered age-appropriate for the office. In fact, you could end up looking “rather sad and dated,” which may have an impact on your legal career. But then again, the National Law Journal’s survey on women who make partner didn’t include a question about the length of partnership candidates’ hair. Because at the end of the day, who cares? If a woman is great at her job, then the length of her hair shouldn’t matter.

Why can’t older women be successful and feminine at the same time?

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We’ve done some hiring recently, and people seem to have three types of résumés.

Some résumés start with an “Executive Summary” that consists largely of the applicant explaining that the applicant believes that he (or she) is a great guy (or gal). I’m not quite sure how that distinguishes the applicant from the seven billion other folks who share this planet with us:

“A fast-paced, fast-track, high-falutin’ individual with exceptional interpersonal, communication, and persuasive skills, as well as boyish good looks and a toothy grin; who leads by example and coaches and develops others to deliver high performance; blah, blah, blah.”

To my eye, this is “telling, not showing.” You think you’re great? Wonderful. But, other than your own say-so, is there anything about you that might objectively indicate that you’re correct? Have you ever, for example, achieved something that’s worth talking about? If so, perhaps your résumé should find an excuse to lead with that.

Other résumés also start with an “Executive Summary,” but of a different type . . .

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There have lately been a flurry of articles, blog columns, and opinions strewn about whether a woman can have a baby and run a corporation. Filtered down to a finer point, especially relevant to this site, is whether lawyers can have it all. The answer, in my opinion, is no. A distilled or altered sense of “all” perhaps, but truly having it all, where you commit fully to your work and home life? Not so much. And to commit the foul of using lawyer “weasel words” — it depends.

When I am asked for advice from folks who read this column, or others practicing law or about to, I usually begin by assessing where that person is in life….

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There are wiser career moves than suing the U.S. Marshals.

Do you remember Benula Bensam? You probably don’t. She was the student at Cardozo Law School who spent part of her summer watching the Rajat Gupta trial. She was reprimanded for sending notes to Judge Jed Rakoff (S.D.N.Y.), including some that questioned Rakoff’s rulings. Such behavior could be seen as an attempt to improperly influence a judge, and so Rakoff had the U.S. Marshals bring her before him, and he told her to cut it out.

Yeah, you remember her now. It was a humorous story about a law student who was maybe a little bit overzealous.

But now Bensam is taking things to the next level. Instead of quietly learning her lesson and getting ready for next semester, the Cardozo student has decided to sue a whole slew of people. She claims that U.S. Marshals didn’t return her cell phone — before they returned her cell phone — and so she’s suing the Marshals, courthouse security, the U.S. Attorney for the S.D.N.Y., and several other defendants. In the process of suing, she’s also revealing how she had what I’d call a bit of a nutty outside the courthouse.

This complaint is just going to do wonders for her Google footprint….

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Ed. note: This is the latest column by our newest writer, Anonymous Partner. In case you missed his prior posts, they are collected here.

With summer in full swing, and my column approaching its two-month anniversary, I thought it might be a good time to go through the mailbag. One of the main reasons I wanted to do this column was the opportunity to discuss the practice of law in Biglaw with people other than immediate colleagues and friends. Expand my horizons and all that.

Well, on that front, the readership has obliged, and I am grateful. So please continue sending me emails with column ideas and questions. I am pretty prompt in responding to email-based questions, even as I wish there was more time to talk through issues. (Reader comments, while at times helpful, frightening, and funny, will have to be a one-way interaction — mostly because of time constraints.)

Anyway, let’s take a look at some of the messages I have gotten so far (with identifying information masked to protect the senders), and my general thoughts regarding the issues raised within….

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For all of you out there in soon-to-be lawyer land, good luck on the bar exam this week! You’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and doggone it, people like you.

We have a few last-minute bar exam tips for you. And let’s see if some of our more seasoned readers have any advice of their own….

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The case had been tried (to a judge, in a country outside the United States) in 2008.

The potential exposure was, let’s say, material.

One can’t exactly wait with bated breath for four years, but one can be keenly interested in a judge’s decision.

So one can be slightly disappointed when the “re” line of an email from outside counsel reads (in its entirety): “Statement of Decision in BigCo v. YourCo.”

Did we win? No news yet.

Surely the news is just a click away.

But one could be a tad frustrated to read the contents of the email message that followed . . .

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About a year and a half ago, I was just a small-firm girl with a dream: to find the truth about small-firm life. After writing this column, and speaking to a wide range of fellow small-firm attorneys, I learned that small firms are all different. Some are mini-sweatshops with small-firm attorneys who have Biglaw egos (and pedigrees), while some are small groups of like-minded, hard-working, intelligent attorneys.

While I never discovered the whole truth about small-firm life, I did pick up a few worthwhile lessons….

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Ed. note: This is the latest column by our newest writer, Anonymous Partner. In case you missed his prior posts, they are collected here.

We all know how difficult to stay at a healthy weight while living the Biglaw lifestyle. Too many hours sitting down, with desk drawers nicely stocked for a quick bite in between phone calls. Sitting inside office buildings all day, with easy access to vending machines stocked with soda and junk food. Carb-heavy breakfasts for client meetings and lateral interview sessions. Food orgies masquerading as CLE sessions and firm meetings. Business development lunches and dinners at fancy restaurants with comprehensive wine and scotch lists. Seamless Web. Two cities, three depositions, one week — equaling plane snacks, room service, and more restaurants. Year in, year out, for a decade or two or three. No wonder your typical Biglaw partner has seen better days waistline-wise.

I know firsthand that it is not easy to drop those Biglaw pounds. But the effort is worth it. In my case, it took some real discipline to arrest what threatened to be a constant addition of one or two pounds a year. I was getting chunky, and as I noted in my first column, I only saw extremes in my older colleagues. I am not a runner, and while working out at home added on some muscle, there was no way I was going to see real results without changing my eating (and drinking) habits.

Everyone has their favorite weight loss tips. Here’s what has worked for me, in terms of keeping the extra pounds away….

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(Or: Avoiding excessive PPP — poundage per partner.)

A guy walks into a conference room:

He’s wearing a custom-tailored suit and a shirt with monogrammed cuffs. His pocket square matches his silk tie. His cufflinks are diamond-studded, and the watch is a Rolex. How do you react?

Choice one: “My goodness, this fellow is stylish and obviously rich. He must be a great lawyer.”

Choice two: “All hat; no cowboy. If this clown were any good, he wouldn’t have to worry so much about appearances. Who does this fop think he’s fooling?”

I know that the conventional wisdom instructs people to dress for success; I’m only partly convinced . . .

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