Advice

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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What the hell happened to the ding letter? When I was coming up, you would interview for a position, and maybe get a callback (inclusive of a nice lunch). If the firm was interested, you’d get an offer, if not, a thin envelope with a “ding” letter. I collected mine like badges of some sort. Some bar in Manhattan used to give you a free drink for every ding letter.

Eventually, I grew up a bit and threw them away. I had no need for them, and they were simply letters of rejection.

Over the years, something happened to the common ding letter: it disappeared. Now, you’re lucky if a company informs you that they received your application packet. Some go all in and state that they’ll keep your information on file and if someone finds you attractive enough, they will give a call, but don’t hold your breath. After talking to many applicants and folks in the job market, my real question is this: “what the hell happened to common decency?”

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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.

I want to a be a Biglaw trial lawyer. If you could care less about trial work, but are in Biglaw, feel free to substitute whatever word you want for the word “trial” in the previous sentence — M&A, IPO, appellate, etc.

Why trial work, other than it seems like a good way to put my lack of nervousness when speaking publicly to productive use? Because I have always enjoyed days spent in court, and no matter how much fun it can be to take a contentious deposition or argue a motion, there is simply nothing like the atmosphere, teamwork, and total focus that a trial commands. Toss in the ability to avoid unpleasant obligations by saying “I am prepping for trial,” and the chance for a long vacation afterwards, and you get a great deal Biglaw-wise.

Since Biglaw is not the ideal training ground for trial work, I realize that I need to very flexible and patient if I realistically hope to have a trial practice down the road. In the meantime, I will continue looking for opportunities to work on trials, and I am willing to do some unorthodox things to accelerate my current pace of one trial every five years.

But first, some context….

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The title of today’s column comes from an e-mail I recently saw. The e-mail read, in its entirety: “Thanks for providing a copy of the statute. Do you have any advice?”

That cracked me up. (I crack up easily.) Doesn’t this e-mail exemplify a recurring problem among lawyers asked for advice? Someone asks a question; the lawyer locates the relevant statute; and the lawyer then sends along the text of the statute as though that answers the question. The lawyer may have provided information, but he almost surely did not actually help the client (which was probably the goal).

I’m not sure whether it’s laziness, cowardice, or incompetence, but something causes many lawyers routinely to transmit information without supplying legal advice.

Here’s another example (which also cracks me up):

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Ed. note: This is the latest column by our newest writer, Anonymous Partner. In case you missed his prior posts, check them out here and here.

I really enjoy the writing of Dr. Atul Gawande, the New Yorker contributor who is also a practicing surgeon. For one thing, surgeons are very interesting creatures — in many ways, they are the trial lawyers of the medical field. Just like trial lawyers (and generally litigators who do more than just brief writing), surgeons need to acquire certain basic technical skills, but the true measure of their value lies in their ability to achieve, through the exercise of leadership and artistry, a favorable result for the client or patient. And just as it takes years of residency and fellowship for surgeons to transition from technical proficiency to artistry, so too must the aspiring Biglaw first-chair trial lawyer undergo a seemingly interminable apprenticeship on the road to courtroom glory. (At least surgeons never lack, due to the frailty of the human body, practice subjects. Biglaw trials are harder to come by — but that is an issue for future exploration.)

Back to Dr. Gawande — something he recently prepared caught my eye. In early June, Dr. Gawande was invited to give the commencement address at Williams College, and his remarks were posted on the New Yorker’s website shortly afterwards. In his talk, Dr. Gawande argued that avoiding catastrophic outcomes — e.g. a stalled career, a Dewey, etc. — is possible, but only if the decision-makers are capable of recognizing the risks of their current paths and able to practice the “art of rescue”….

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I had lunch recently with a guy who’s looking for an in-house job. He was complaining about how tough this is: “Recruiters don’t do you any good. They’re focused almost entirely on moving lawyers between law firms; they don’t know about in-house jobs. The recruiters who get retained to do job searches for corporations are working for the corporation, not you. If you don’t match the criteria the corporation laid out, they don’t want to talk to you. How the heck does one land an in-house job?”

Surprisingly, I’d never thought about this issue. (I wasn’t looking for an in-house job — or, indeed, any job at all — when I landed in my current position.) Because I’d never considered how one obtains an in-house job, I had no idea what the answer was. So — always thinking of you (and searching for blog fodder) — I picked the brain of a headhunter-friend.

How, I asked the headhunter, should a lawyer go about looking for an in-house job?

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Don’t read this post again! It would be unbearable.

I’m unabashedly doing two things with this post:

First, I’m serving my purpose: My new book has been published! Here’s a link to the ABA Web Store’s page for Inside Straight: Advice About Lawyering, In-House And Out, That Only The Internet Can Provide.

Second, I’m serving David Lat’s purpose: Above the Law becomes more valuable when readers click through links and read multiple pages of text. I’ve therefore hidden the information about Cravath’s summer bonuses (if any) behind this link…

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