Last year, St. Martin’s Press published The Partner Track, the debut novel of lawyer Helen Wan. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, I praised the book for being engaging, suspenseful, and — unlike so many legal novels — realistic. The paperback edition of The Partner Track became available last week.
I enjoy fiction about lawyers, as both a reader and writer — my own firstnovel comes out in a few weeks — and I’m deeply interested in how other writers work. So I interviewed Helen Wan about her book, her approach to writing, and how she managed to write a novel while holding down a demanding job as an in-house lawyer for Time Warner. I also asked for her advice on how women and minority lawyers can succeed in Biglaw.
Here’s a (lightly edited and condensed) write-up of our conversation.
David Foster Wallace died six years ago today, on September 12, 2008. The author of novels such as Infinite Jest, The Pale King, and essay collections such as A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again hanged himself in the garage of his California home. DFW was 46.
David Foster Wallace was a lawyer’s writer, if ever one could use that label without intending insult. DFW was not a lawyer, though he famously became friends and collaborators with legal writing expert Bryan Garner. Garner’s co-author Justice Antonin Scalia is also said to be a fan. Countless attorneys who haven’t cracked a novel in years will brighten at the mention of DFW. Analytical, language-obsessed, and neurotic, he may have captured the modus operandi of many lawyers as well as any novelist or essayist could.
David Foster Wallace, especially for a fiction writer, was logical, analytical. He never quite left behind the mindset of the analytic philosophy student he once was. Wallace’s senior thesis in modal logic was published posthumously. His senior thesis in English became his first published novel, The Broom of the System. He wrote lit for STEM geeks and logic nerds . . . including the many STEM geeks and logic nerds who later ended up in law. (Myself included.)
* Our columnist Steve Dykstra opines that Roger Goodell is not going to get fired over the Ray Rice investigation/non-investigation. But what we really want to know from Dykstra is his opinion on how badly the West is going to beat the East in this year’s Grey Cup. [Steven Dykstra]
* Apparently, we’ve been banned by Reddit. I think as editors we’ve posted on Reddit maybe 3 times in the last year, so it certainly isn’t our fault. Reddit notes “above the law will no longer be receiving traffic or page views from here,” which I guess is supposed to be a threat. Hey, don’t fault us just because our content is so good. *cue unimaginative trolling* [Reddit]
The start of the new Term of the Supreme Court of the United States is about a month away. So now is a good time to do a new round-up for Supreme Court clerk hiring. As it turns out, there are more than enough unreported hires for a fresh story.
And there’s other SCOTUS clerk news to share as well. Remember last year, when law firm signing bonuses for SCOTUS clerks hit a new high of $300,000? Well, try to stop yourself from turning green with envy, but some firms are now offering even more than that.
How much are these kids — and yes, many of them are kids, in their mid-twenties — taking home in signing bonuses? Yes, signing bonuses, on top of their usual six-figure associate salaries….
* A unanimous Seventh Circuit panel, in an opinion by Judge Posner, just struck down Wisconsin and Indiana’s bans on same-sex marriage. The result isn’t surprising in light of the blistering benchslaps delivered by Judge Posner at oral argument, but the timing is faster than usual (for a federal appellate opinion in a high-profile case, not for the prolific Posner). [BuzzFeed]
* Bad news for Cahill Gordon: the Third Circuit just revived a fraud case against the high-powered firm and one of its clients, a unit of BASF. [WSJ Law Blog]
* And badder news for BP: a federal judge just concluded that the oil giant was grossly negligent in connection with the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. [New York Times]
* Freshfields gets fresh talent, adding former Wachtell partner Mitchell Presser and former Skadden partner James Douglas to its ranks. [American Lawyer]
* The dean of Seton Hall Law, Patrick Hobbs, will step down from the deanship at the end of the current academic year. Congratulations to Dean Hobbs on a long and successful tenure. [South Orange Juice]
* And congratulations to John Grisham and Jason Bailey, winners of, respectively, the 2014 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction and the 2014 ABA Journal/Ross Short Fiction Contest. [ABA Journal]
* Brittany McGrath, Brooklyn Law class of 2014, RIP. [TaxProf Blog]
* Steph Cha’s new tale of old school noir, Beware Beware (affiliate link), is now available. Its setting is “a picture of desolation, of crushed dreams dressed in grimy fourth-hand garments.” And yet, somehow she’s not talking about the last days of Dewey. [LA Times]
* If you’re doing some kind of charity, do us a favor and shut up about it. [What About Clients]
* A Connecticut lawyer was barred from ever representing women again for the rest of his career. Now he may be disbarred for breaking that simple condition. [ATL Redline]
Yes, there are going to be a lot of Simpsons references this week.
Moving on, it’s back to school time, which means campus brick-and-mortar bookstores all across the country are actually seeing some business. Forcing students to buy physical books is a good business to be in. The utility of running a textbook scam can be explained in one helpful chart:
You can blame your professors for this. Every student can get every case they need with a complimentary legal search password (thanks to our advertisers), yet professors still assign reading from casebooks. Even more incredibly, professors still write casebooks! And then those casebook publishers go out of their way to rip off students with multiple editions. There was even a cockamamie plan to prevent casebook resale that had to be beaten back by public outrage.
But, professors can also help students avoid unnecessary and costly book fees. Faculty members at one school fought back against their administration on behalf of their students…
Ed. note: This is the latest post by Above the Law’s guest conversationalist, Zach Abramowitz, of blogcasting platform ReplyAll. You can see some of his other conversations and musings here.
At 30 years old, Ben Shapiro is a Harvard-trained lawyer, founder of Truthrevolt.org, editor-at-large at Breitbart.com, host of the (aptly named) Ben Shapiro Show, and a New York Times bestselling author of five books. He regularly appears as a guest pundit on Fox News and CNN and, just in case that list of accomplishments failed to adequately damage your self-esteem, Ben is also an accomplished violinist. Seriously, that’s enough to make the Tiger Mom herself, Amy Chua, throw up in her mouth.
Another law school year is almost upon us. Whether strolling into law school for the first time still filled with wide-eyed optimism or returning from a summer job to kill more time and rack up more debt, every student must resupply for the impending school year. Sure, for returning students, you’ve made it through at least one year of school so some of this is old hat. That said, you undoubtedly did something wrong and you’re now flush with cash from your summer job so it’s time to go shopping.
Meanwhile, for 1Ls, obviously if you’ve made it this far in life you have at least some clue. Or think you do. There are essentials from high school and college that will serve a law student just as well. But law school is riddled with its own unique quirks that require a different set of tools.
What’s the appropriate gear for law school? Well, you’re lucky Skippy because ATL has you covered. Here’s a rundown of exactly what you need to buy for law school….
As part of a nationwide tour, Above the Law is coming to the great city of Chicago.
Join preeminent law firm management consultant Bruce MacEwen, Katten Muchin Chicago managing partner Gil Sofer, and JPMorgan Chase & Co. assistant general counsel Jason Shaffer for a panel discussion (sponsored by Pangea3) on the evolutionary and market forces bearing down on the law firm business model. Come on by Thursday, November 20, at 6 p.m., for thought-provoking discussion, food, drink, and networking.
Space is limited and there will be no on-site registration, so please RSVP
Average law school debt for graduates of private universities hovered around $122,000 last year. With only 57% of new attorneys actually obtaining real lawyer jobs, recent graduates have a lot to consider when it comes to managing their student loan payments. Thanks to our friends at SoFi, today’s infographic takes a look at student loan debt, including the possible benefits of refinancing for JDs…
Kinney Recruiting’sEvan Jowers is currently in Hong Kong for client meetings and still has a few slots available through October 22. Evan will also be in Hong Kong November 14 to December 15. Further, Robert Kinney has been in Frankfurt and Munich this week and is available for meetings with our Germany based readers.
One of our key law firm clients has referred us to one of their important clients in the US, Europe and China – a leading global technology supplier for the auto industry – in order to handle their search for a new Asia General Counsel and Asia Chief Compliance Officer.
Kinney is exclusively handling this in-house search.
This position will have a lot of responsibility and include supervision of eight attorneys underneath them in the Asia in-house team. The new hire will report directly to the global general counsel and global chief compliance officer, who is based in the US. The new hire’s ability to make judgement calls is going to be as important as their technical skill set background.
The position is based in Shanghai and will deal with the company’s operations all over Asia and also in India, including frequent acquisitions in the region.
It is expected that the new hire will come from a top US firm’s Shanghai, Beijing or Hong Kong offices, currently in a top flight corporate practice at the senior associate, counsel or partner level. Of course, the candidate can be currently in a relevant in-house role.