Career Advice

As a new summer associate, you must have heard many a horror story about your predecessors, including tales of fashion disasters. For example, do you remember the boozy Milbank SA who supposedly showed up to events wearing an Olympic jumpsuit? How about the girl who wanted to march around her firm with a $9,000 Birkin bag? As this year’s summers descend upon Biglaw firms across the country, we thought that we might be able to offer you some assistance to prevent you from committing comparable crimes of fashion.

To accomplish this feat, we’ve teamed up with none other than Anna Akbari, the “thinking person’s stylist,” to help you make it through the summer. You don’t want to wind up as a bullet point on Weil Gotshal’s “unacceptable” list….

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Man it’s been a rough week around here at ATL. With the addition of Eric Turkewitz, or as I call him, E.T., I now see you all weren’t kidding when you told me the only reason I was here was because Lat and Mystal just go down the alphabet.

I was also invited to experience misery at its peak have drinks with Elie during his visit to South Florida where he continued to call B.S. spoke on a panel to a conference of “all our graduates get jobs” law school admissions folks and apparently experienced what can only be described as “commentariat live.”

Our meeting was just your typical conversation between an angry short Jewish lawyer from Miami who successfully overcame academic probation at a state college and third-tier law school and a big fat black guy with dual degrees from Harvard. We left before the Boca Raton Resort and Club noticed we were there.

Now let’s talk about Biglaw summer associates….

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If there was ever a place where your self-esteem could be crushed just by stepping into an airport, Los Angeles is it. Being a New Yorker, I had the high-minded misconception that New York was the mecca of beautiful people, especially in summer. Wrong. I’ll end this tangent with the statement that I saw more perfectly tanned, toned, muscular, and ridiculously in shape people in the 15 minutes it took me to walk to baggage claim in LAX, than I have in my entire time in the Big Apple.

I was in L.A. to present at ACC’s Corporate Counsel University (“CCU”). CCU is a two-day nuts to bolt immersion program for folks who are new to in-house positions. It’s relatively small compared with the Annual Meeting, 200 or so attendees, but I have enjoyed presenting at this conference more than any other, because I can so readily identify with being new to in-house and feeling overwhelmed about how much I did not know….

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It is hardly shocking that a woman who chooses to operate under a pseudonym is an introvert. If left to my own devices, I would stay at home watching television and looking out my window. I am talking Boo Radley here.

Unfortunately, momma’s got to earn the money to pay the cable bill, so I must force myself out into the world. Oh, and momma needs a new job, so I have to do the single most painful thing a girl like me must do. No, not hook. I must… NETWORK.

In the past, when attending networking events, I would bring a friend, get drunk on cheap chardonnay, and leave without speaking to anyone new. That is apparently the wrong way to network. So, recently, I decided to really put myself out there: I have started attending networking events (well, at least one networking event) alone. I got there late, hung alone in the corner awkwardly playing with my phone, drank cheap chardonnay, and left without speaking to anyone new. Alas, it was time for me to ask for help…

Luckily for me, I did not have to search far for advice on networking. There are thousands of listicles about how to network. Most of them were useless (e.g., they suggested foregoing chardonnay), and most were geared towards people who did not consider “fear of public speaking” as a scarier thing than death. (Yes, I am one of those people.) Thanks to my LinkedIn news suggestions, I discovered a subset of networking articles geared towards introverts. The advice was earth-shattering….

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First, a stand-up comedy routine; then, my point.

In the early 1980s, Robin Williams performed in a nightclub. His performance was taped and later broadcast by HBO. During the performance, Williams spied on-stage a wine glass filled with a clear liquid (which was, in fact, water), and Williams was off and running:

“There are white wines. There are red wines. Why are there no black wines?

“Reggie wine! It’s a m*therf*cker! Goes with meat; goes with fish; goes with any damn thing it wants to.

“I like my wine like I like my women — ready to pass out.

“We’ll get Mean Joe Green to advertise the stuff: ‘Reggie wine! Drink this sh*t or I’ll nail your ass to a tree.’”

After HBO broadcast the performance, an African-American winemaker named David Rege (pronounced “Reggie”) sued Williams and others in California state court, claiming that Williams had damaged Rege’s reputation and adversely affected the sales of his wine. (You knew there was a lawsuit tucked in here someplace, didn’t you?)

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I am always intrigued by articles giving advice on appropriate office behavior. For whatever reason, these advice columns almost always discuss the appropriateness (or lack thereof) of crying in the office. I am not sure why this is such a newsworthy topic, as I have rarely witnessed such behavior — either as a Biglaw associate or when I went to a small firm. And I only cried once in my five years of practice, and that was not in the office — it was in the elevator. Unfortunately a partner happened to be in the elevator with me, but I could not help it.

Last week the Wall Street Journal featured an article on this topic. Don’t Cry (At The Office) suggests that you not cry at the office (yes, shocking). The article goes on to suggest that you go home or to your therapist’s office to cry because while having feelings at work is a no-no, it is important to have feelings when you are off the clock.

After learning that one should not cry at the office, I decided to investigate other inappropriate behaviors. I have put together a list of forbidden actions for small-firm attorneys based on input from my cadre of small-firm Emily Posts.

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Andrew Sweat

If you know Cleveland Browns rookie free agent Andrew Sweat, please send him this post. Tell him to drop me a line. Let me help this man avoid making what could be the biggest mistake of his life.

Sweat, a linebacker for the Ohio State Buckeyes, went undrafted in last month’s NFL draft. He later signed as a rookie free agent with the Browns. Now, instead of attending camp and trying to make the team, Sweat has decided to give up on his NFL career and attend law school instead.

Not even a very highly ranked law school. More like the Cleveland Browns of law schools.

I can’t know if Sweat’s decision is being partially motivated by all the media attention focused on the long-term health consequences of playing in the NFL. But I’d bet all the money in my pocket that Sweat has not been paying attention to the media coverage of the long-term professional and financial damage that can be done by going to law school…

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At large law firms, unless you’re interviewing for a small practice group, nobody’s losing sleep over whether you’ll fit in. They’ll take you so long as you’re smart, willing to work crazy hours, and not obviously a jerk. (Although if you’re a rainmaker jerk, they can’t seem to roll out the red carpet to the corner office quickly enough.)

You’ll tend hear the concern about the “right fit” voiced more often for in-house than Biglaw job openings. When you interview for an in-house position, your technical and substantive abilities certainly need to pass the bar (every possible pun intended). But after that, there’s a broad and maddeningly vague analysis regarding how good a “fit” you are….

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Future partner nobody wants to work for.

You know how they say that if a kid tortures animals, then it’s a pretty good bet that the kid will grow to be a danger to people? I feel like a similar thing can be said of law students. If you see a law student who picks on law librarians, administrative staff, and others in the law school community who don’t have the power and respect of the academic faculty, it’s a pretty good bet that you’re looking at a future lawyer who is going to yell and scream and bully his secretary and people who are junior to him.

It’s. Really. Pathetic. Throwing a hissy fit at those who have no power is the mark of a coward.

Of course, the ultimate law school pressure-cooker is final exams. And when the pressure is on, you can find out who keeps their cool, and who is a d-bag…

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Not frilly and girly enough!

It’s not often that one associates high fashion with female lawyers. And if such an association is to be made, it usually comes in the form of an Elle Woods / Legally Blonde joke. Instead, one is quick to conjure visions of boxy ’80s power suits with shoulder pads thick enough to warrant a cringe.

You’d think that with the sheer number of fashion sense for the workplace seminars, women would have stopped making the faux pas of dressing like they were anywhere but at a David E. Kelley-created law firm — but apparently, you’d be wrong.

So let us spell it out for all of our lovely lady lawyers, as the Wall Street Journal so eloquently did last night: “The power suit is over.” These days, power looks for women contain frills, ruffles, and even hints of (gasp!) pink.

While the power suit may be a fashion no-no, is it acceptable to wear these emerging trends to work?

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