Advice

When I was a kid, before many of you were born, there were ads during Saturday morning cartoons for a program called “RIF” -– an acronym for “Reading is Fundamental.” Started in 1966 in Washington, D.C., it is supposedly one of the oldest non-profit educational programs in existence. I mentioned RIFs in my last column, and trust me, in the corporate world, RIFs are not altruistic attempts to get at-risk youth to read.

RIF stands for “reduction in force” — i.e., layoffs, terminations, downsizing, etc. A RIF can take various forms. For example, a V-RIF, or “voluntary reduction in force,” is when a company offers early retirement or severance packages to certain employees. These are usually offered as a first attempt to reduce work force numbers, and they are the cleanest way to lower the population. At the other end of the spectrum is the I–RIF, or “involuntary reduction in force.” The term is self-defining.

I stated before that I have witnessed an I-RIF period, and that it was awful. By “awful,” I meant that seeing people let go from their jobs was uncomfortable for me, having come from private practice where such reductions were not (at the time) as publicized as they are today. My company handled the situation with as much grace as could be expected, and I honestly believed our then-CEO when she stated that the dignity of our people was at the forefront of how the reduction would take place….

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Every time I get an email, I get really excited. The idea that some of my readers want to reach out and share ideas is overwhelming. Lately, the emails have taken a turn for the worse. The last email I received read like this (or a close approximation because I deleted it upon receipt for fear of catching something):

RE: Guest Post

Dear VALERIE KATZ,

I am writing because you have allowed guest bloggers to write posts on your column before. I am a regular columnist at SEXMEUP.com and think that I can write relevant material for your blog. Some column ideas I have include: My Lovely Lady Lumps and Humps, Lunchtime Quickies, How to Turn Your Office Into A Love Den or Top 10 Things You Can Do With a Stapler. All I ask in return is to be able to include a link to my blog. I think the possibility for crossover traffic is huge. Thanks, Sexy Mama.

I know what you are thinking: Katz, you better say yes to Sexy Mama since her stapler story sounds way better than your expose on office chairs at small firms. Sexy Mama did have a point about cross-over traffic: I am sure many of her readers would agree with me that Size Matters. I could not, however, agree to hand over the reigns to my column to Sexy Mama. After all, I am only interested in Lady Lumps if they relate to small firms.

I know enough not to respond to spam emails. Some other people — specifically, small firm attorneys — do not. So, I am offering them some advice….

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This is a real drink in a real glass with enough ice that it'll be appropriately watered down for networking.

There’s a list that’s been going around the past two days that purports to be A Drink-by-Drink Guide for networking events.

Don’t get your hopes up. It’s not really drinking advice for legal networking events. It’s regular advice for legal networking events that happens to use the word “drink” — instead of “level” or “number” — to demarcate the five tips in the article.

It’s fine advice, especially if you are so awkward socially that you can cool off a hot craps table simply with your inability to execute a high-five.

However, as a functioning alcoholic (emphasis on FUNction), I’ve got some real advice on how alcohol can help get you through these painful and boring networking events without being so terrified of not getting a job that your scent of desperation makes everybody want to stand three feet away from you.

Here’s how to look cool and confident while knocking back a few without getting so sloshed you end up on Above the Law in the morning….

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Above the Law may need to hire a full-time legal bathroom beat reporter.

A few days ago, we learned that Harvard Law School named a bathroom after an alumnus with an, umm, unusual last name.

Last night, we received a tip about the San Francisco branch of a national law firm that delivered an office-wide email concerning “restroom etiquette.” The email is hilarious, and if nothing else, impressively thorough. They thought of everything. The missive covered tips for masking awkward bathroom noises, suggestions for choosing a urinal, and an emphasis on the ways bathroom behavior can affect your professional reputation.

Let’s see which firm has (toilet) water on the brain, and take a look at the memo….

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February 1, 2012 is a singularly important day to Rush geeks (like me). 2112, get it? I’ve been drumming for over 30 years, and was brought up on trying to play along with Mr. Peart. While I succeeded somewhat in gaining enough chops to play Moving Pictures, Side 1 (back when they had albums, which had sides), and I am proud to say I’ve played some legendary clubs in the Village, the drums never became my end all and be all. Neither did acting, which I tried when I was in my 20s.

When they learn of my distant past, people always ask if I was in anything they’d know — and the answer is that I auditioned for several things they’d know, but since I’m “happily ensconced as an in-house lawyer at a major technology company,” which is impressive, it obviously never panned out. So, as I gaze out my 20th floor window over the lack of snow in upstate New York, my thoughts turn to where I am and where I may be going. Obama gets to give a speech every year on the state of the country, so why can’t I muse about a much smaller universe — the state of the union between me, and others, and the law?

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Here at Above the Law, we try to notify our readers about job opportunities for law students and lawyers. Some of these positions are less desirable and some are more desirable, but hey: in this economy, a job is a job.

(At least as long as it pays. Some jobs don’t, of course.)

Back in the fall, we reminded you about the application deadline for the Presidential Management Fellows Program (PMF). In case you’re not familiar with the PMF program, check out the official website.

Now we bring you an update about the program….

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First, a shameless plug. Then, back to business.

I’ll be giving my “book talk” about The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Practicing Law at The University of Michigan Law School on Monday, March 5, and again at Northwestern University Law School on Tuesday, March 27. If there’s a chance your organization might be interested in that talk, and you’ll be in Ann Arbor or Chicago at the right times, please let me know. We’ll sneak you into the room, and you can get a sense of the topics that I discuss.

Now, the business: You are not a potted plant! When you transmit something, either within a law firm or to (or within) a corporate law department, add value. You are not — or should not be — simply a conduit through which things flow. You don’t impress people with your timidity, and you may well annoy people.

What am I thinking of?

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Landing a Summer Public Interest Legal Job: hotsexyskippy@yahoo.com is not an appropriate email address to have on your résumé. LOL.

PSLawNet, offering job search advice over Twitter.

Complete honesty is such a dangerous thing.

I’m going to give it a shot.

I’m posing three questions to myself today. First, why might a lawyer at a law firm choose to write articles? Second, what topics should lawyers write about, and where should they publish the articles? Finally, why might an in-house lawyer choose to write?

The honest truth is that outside lawyers choose to write for many, varied reasons. In-house lawyers might also choose to write for many reasons, but those reasons are different and fewer. Across the board, authors’ motivations for writing will be mixed.

Do I have a right to speak on the subject of publications? My credentials, in a nutshell, are these: Three books; twelve law review articles; two book chapters; about 70 other, shorter articles (in places ranging from The Wall Street Journal and the Chicago Tribune to Pharmaceutical Executive and Litigation); and maybe 600 blog posts (roughly 500 at Drug and Device Law and north of 100 here). Call me nuts (and I may well be), but I’ve spent a professional lifetime doing a ton of “recreational” legal writing.

Why did I do it? Should you?

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There’s a really funny post up on Constitutional Daily, in which the protagonist — who holds a J.D. from NYU Law and was laid off from Biglaw during the recession — recounts his inability to secure a job at Target. It got me thinking of that other great lie that law schools tell incoming law students: “Yada yada, you can do anything with a law degree… also, I’d like to interest you in partial ownership of the Brooklyn Bridge.”

But many J.D. holders have found out the hard way that holding a law degree only opens doors to “law” jobs. They aren’t degrees of general utility.

If anything, they close more doors than they open….

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