“Oh, you hate your job? Why didn’t you say so? There’s a support group for that. It’s called EVERYBODY and they meet at the bar.” – Drew Carey
You thought law school would be a good investment. “Even if I don’t become a lawyer,” you proudly announced, “I will have many, many options. A J.D., after all, is so valuable.” When staring down a crushing mountain of student loans, you signed on the dotted line. “Who can put a price on the doors a J.D. will open up for me?” If you knew this guy back then, you might have thought twice, but you didn’t.
Today, four, six, or ten years later, you spend late nights staring at your J.D. in its pristine frame, tears of rage streaming down your face. “Where are MY DOORS??” you scream at it, sobbing into your sea of briefs or closing sets or brown liquor. Instead of doors, why are there enormous walls and sets of handcuffs (and not the good kind)? Why is it that you hate every job opening you might qualify for? I mean, you got your J.D., and you’re a grown-up lawyer who brilliantly catches typos.
I’m eight years out of law school and many of my classmates – including some of the gunnerest of gunners – are now in industries like legal technology, legal practice products, deal consulting, and law firm professional development. A director at a global fashion house in Latin America. A professional poker player. And my favorite: founding a service for renting gentlemen.
So how do you get from here to there? How does a lawyer really stop being a practicing lawyer?
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.
Despite surveys showing that being a law firm associate is the unhappiest job in America, we know a fair number of happy lawyers. We don’t tend to write about them very much — we like our stories to have a little more bite or edge around here — but there is such a thing as a happy lawyer (affiliate link).
Still, there’s no denying that the stereotype of the miserable lawyer has some truth to it — and that, after a while, some of these lawyers leave the legal profession. Most people who go to medical school end up practicing medicine for the long haul; many people who go to law school end up doing something different after a while.
If you’re thinking of leaving the law, what should you do?
Dr. N. Robert Riordan is a graduate of NYU School of Law and a former U.S. securities attorney for London- and Sydney-based Herbert Smith Freehills. After 10 years of practice in New York, London and Rome, he made the switch from corporate law to private practice as a clinical psychologist. Dr. Riordan now acts as a therapist to dozens of NYC attorneys. The following is the second of a two-part interview with Dr. Riordan. (You can read the first part here.)
ATL: In addition to professionals like attorneys, whom do you see in your private practice?
The remainder of my practice focuses on couples. I work with two distinct types of couples. First, I see couples whose romantic relationships are in crisis. The goal here is to improve their bond to one another. I happen to see many couples where both parties are professionals, and, most often, each member of the couple is struggling to balance personal and professional demands.
ATL: I would imagine that couples come to treatment for a variety of reasons.
I work with many couples whose connection to one another has been strained by things like demanding careers, childrearing, or an unexpected financial hardship. These couples are looking to recapture the connection that originally brought them together and to start working as a partnership again. Also I work with a handful of couples who are facing specific challenges, like infidelity or the loss of a child.
ATL: Has your training as an attorney prepared you for the conflicts that presumably arise in couples’ therapy?
Dr. N. Robert Riordan is a graduate of NYU School of Law and a former U.S. securities attorney for London- and Sydney-based Herbert Smith Freehills. After 10 years of practice in New York, London and Rome, he made the switch from corporate law to private practice as a clinical psychologist. Dr. Riordan now acts as a therapist to dozens of NYC attorneys. The following is the first of a two-part interview with Dr. Riordan.
ATL: The most obvious question first – why the switch from law to clinical psychology?
The short answer is: I grew up. I went to law school when I was 21 years old, and I went with the belief that a law degree would serve me well no matter what I ultimately opted to do in my professional life. I never intended to practice securities law for a decade, but the work was interesting and I was given the opportunity to live in some fascinating places. In time, and with the help of a therapist, I discovered my true professional interests.
ATL: Did you set out to work with attorneys when you started your private practice?
Throughout graduate school, because I was older and a former attorney, I was assigned to work with many professionals as clients. While I have a diverse array of clients, the majority are doctors, lawyers and bankers. We speak the same language.
ATL: Our readers will want to know why attorneys are seeking therapy. Can you discuss this topic?
Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Casey Berman of Leave Law Behind discusses how perfectionism can be a barrier to leaving an unhappy career in the law.
Leave Law Behind is a blog and community to help unhappy and dissatisfied attorneys find ways to leave the law behind and create new career paths for themselves. It’s an active community that comments on blog posts, emails me each week, and interacts with each other.
It also contains a huge amount of self-admitted perfectionists, myself included.
You see, while it is rare, every so often I may make a mistake and include a typo in my writing. No matter how many times I review and re-read my posts, sometimes there is a small grammatical error or some other type of inconsistency. In my most recent instance, I saw the typo for the first time right after I hit “Send” on the email newsletter … and published it on Facebook … and tweeted it on Twitter. It was repeated as people forwarded the post along and retweeted. Some readers even emailed me directly to let me know it was there.
My mistake was out there and there was nothing I could do about it.
Ed note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Marc Luber challenges Jim Saksa’s Slate article, “You Can Do Anything With A Law Degree,” with several viable career alternatives for JDs.
After law school, I took an unpaid internship. When I got my first music industry job in Los Angeles, I was severely underpaid. I sometimes wondered if the job required a high school degree, let alone a law degree. If you asked me then, I would have told you that a J.D. is a joke and that you should stay away from law school at all costs.
Jiminy jillickers! ATL editors are going all over the place over the next month or so. Or at least all over the Eastern Seaboard. If we aren’t heading to your neck of the woods on these trips, never fear, we may hit you up on the next time around. We’ve already hit up Houston, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles in the past year.
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.
The JOBS Act created new tools for companies to publicly advertise securities deals online. As a result, thousands of new deals have hit the market and hundreds of millions in capital has been raised, spurring a wealth of new business development opportunities for attorneys.
Fund deals, startup capital raises, PIPE deals and loan syndicates are just a handful of the transactions benefiting from the JOBS Act. InvestorID FirmTM is a platform designed to help attorneys equip their clients with the workflow, marketing and compliance tools to publicly solicit a securities offering online. By providing clients with the tools to painlessly navigate the regulatory landscape of general solicitation, InvestorID FirmTM helps attorneys add value above just legal services.
The Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (JOBS Act) went into effect in 2013 and permits Regulation D offerings of securities to be advertised publicly. This means that funds and companies can now use social media, emails and web sites to market transactions to new “accredited” investors.
However, with these new powers come new pain points. InvestorID FirmTM provides a secure, fully hosted, cloud-based platform with a breadth of tools for your clients, including: