Departure Memos

Seems like this bridge was fundamentally unsafe to begin with.

Around these parts, we love a good departure memo. But usually they come from people who have spent some time in Biglaw. It generally takes some time for a person to burn into a full-fledged flame-out.

But today we’ve got a guy from New Zealand who managed to start, quit, and burn his career bridges in about four weeks. Impressive.

It’s not a mean note, it’s just… not lawyerly in any way. I’m not sure even elvish magic could reforge this guy’s career….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Departure Memo From Middle Earth Burns The Bridge of Khazad-dûm”

Yesterday, we brought you the story of Garrett Waltzer. The former Skadden partner sent around a thrilling departure memo explaining to his colleagues that he was leaving the firm to help the music career of his wife, R&B artist and near-reality show star TaQuita Thorns. If you missed yesterday’s story, I’ll wait here while you catch up.

Yeah, that happened.

So when I say former Skadden partner, boy do I mean “former.” Skadden has already removed his bio from their website. That firm doesn’t play.

But Waltzer is still talking. After yesterday’s story, he opened up a little bit about his personal life to Vivia Chen of The Careerist.

Oh, and I did I mention we’ve got a clip of TaQuita Thorns on her reality show?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Departing Skadden Partner, His Ex-Wife, And The Substance Of African-Americans”

Ed. note: The following piece was authored by The Legal Tease, of Sweet Hot Justice fame. Check out her other musings from Sweet Hot Justice here.

Has your soul winced at all today? The kind of wince that feels like your junk has retreated deep into your abdomen in a way that makes you mostly nauseous… but also a little excited? No? Well, YOU’RE WELCOME, because here’s your chance. Actually, though, don’t thank me — thank a partner at one of Biglaw’s biggest and baddest firms, whose departure memo will leave track marks in your brain for at least the next three days.

Our partner, Garrett Waltzer, started off with the usual sentiments: After 24 years practicing at Skadden, in both Los Angeles and Palo Alto, he’s grateful for the professional opportunities, the terrific mentoring, the millions of dollars friendships he’s made, yada yada yada. Then he starts to tease us:

I have decided to start a new phase of my life. I do not plan to practice law.

Hm. OK. Well, Waltzer, what do you plan to do then? The answers await you after the jump, in what will likely heretofore be known as Chapter 1 of the Mid-Life Crisis Manual handed out to all new associates at Skadden and beyond….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Love Of A Woman Is More Valuable Than A Partnership At Skadden”


It’s the last day of December, so it’s a good time to look back on the year that was. We’ll do what we’ve done for the past three years (wrap-up posts from 2009, 2010, and 2011 can be found here, here, and here) and identify the ten biggest stories of the past year as decided by you, our readers. With the help of Google Analytics, we’ve compiled a list of our top ten posts for 2012, based on traffic (as represented by pageviews).

By the way, for the third year in a row, the most popular category page on Above the Law was Law Schools. People have now been intensely focused on the declining value proposition of going to law school for as long as it takes to earn a Juris Doctor degree. Isn’t it time that we graduate from the current educational model?

The second and third most-popular categories on ATL in 2012 were Biglaw and Bonuses. Although this year brought us the largest law firm failure ever, nearly all other firms indiscriminately doled out offers to summer associates, and bonus season looked better for the first time in years. While the legal profession is still in transition, things are certainly looking up, and through the highs and the lows, we’ve been there to cover it all.

So what were the ten most popular individual posts at Above the Law in 2012? Let’s find out….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Above the Law’s Top Ten Most Popular Posts of 2012″

Tom Wallerstein

One of my favorite recurring columns on Above the Law is the “Departure Memo of the Day.” Elie Mystal hit a nerve last week when he published a particularly depressing departure memo from a harried mother at Clifford Chance who was struggling, unsuccessfully, to balance the demands of parenthood and Biglaw. The departure memo lit up Twitter and even the Huffington Post decided to weigh in.

At many Biglaw firms, departure memos have become an ingrained part of the culture. Why are departure memos so ubiquitous, especially in Biglaw? The New York Times put it best:

“The ‘departure memo’ is a fixture at many large employers, and nowhere more so than at big law firms. Departures, particularly of young associates, are built into the business model. Not everyone is supposed to stay, and many never planned to stay, so leaving is often celebrated. Many of the ‘Departure Memos of the Day’ published on Above the Law fall into that category. Excitement at the next opportunity, and a little bit of glee at leaving, is completely acceptable, as is a little thumbing of the nose at the firm. Creativity isn’t unusual.”

The Clifford Chance departure memo struck a chord with many lawyers because it openly grappled with the struggle for work/life balance so familiar to so many of us. But it also raises bigger issues regarding the purpose intended by such missives….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “From Biglaw to Boutique: Departure Memos”

Unless that’s a butler coming down the track, this family is going to struggle.

Last week, we published a departure memo from an associate at Clifford Chance who could no longer juggle parenting and Biglaw.

Since we published, the story has gone everywhere. The Huffington Post weighed in, and so did the New York Times. I’m glad so many people are finding out that working at one of the top law firms in the world is really difficult. Welcome to our world — they’re not paying people $160,000 and up to work from 9 to 5.

But one disturbing trend in the coverage of this story is the move to blame the husband. Ms. X’s husband only appears once in her tick-tock:

7:45pm: Negotiate with husband over who will do bathtime and bedtime routine; lose

That line has led to rampant speculation about the deadbeat loser Ms. X must be married to. Vivia Chen of The Careerist had one of the more restrained slams on this guy: “Not to be presumptuous, but I think we should all chip in for some negotiation courses for this poor woman. I realize we don’t have all the facts, but her husband seems to be getting away with murder.”

Well, you know what? I’ve been a Biglaw associate, and a Biglaw spouse, and let me tell you, it’s not as easy as it looks. Just because a lady “loses” the negotiations on domestic chores doesn’t mean that she’s married to a sexist pig, and it doesn’t mean the guy is “getting away with murder”….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “In Defense of the Clifford Chance Mommy’s Husband”

Sorry guys, but I’m gettin’ out of here. Through the window, of course. Because why not?

So, it feels a bit surreal for me to say this, but today is my last day as an assistant editor at Above the Law. I wrote my first piece for the site, as a freelancer, nearly two years ago, and it’s been quite a ride since then.

As part of the ATL team, I attended the IP trial of the century, I’ve interviewed some incredible attorneys (and several less incredible ones), and I’ve written about Biglaw lawyers turned small business owners.

I’ve enjoyed working under the watchful eye of the ATL Commentariat, as well as the readers brave enough to send us actual emails. You all have kept me honest, kept my ego in check, and kept my spell-check working hard. I’ll miss you crazed internet goblins.

But it’s time to move on; it’s time to get goin’….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Departure Memo: It’s Time to Move On”

Not pictured: the Biglaw train barreling towards this family.

I’ve read this departure email three times this morning, all while a sleeping six-week-old snores up at me. It’s a departure memo where a Biglaw associate kind of admits that she can no longer juggle the demands of parenthood and the demands of being a Biglaw lawyer. In a way, it’s heartbreaking. I don’t know this woman, and I don’t know what her hopes and dreams are or might have been, but it shouldn’t be so damn hard — in the richest country on Earth — to have a big-time job and be a loving parent. The struggles highlighted by this woman make me sad as a new parent myself.

In another way, this memo is uplifting. You can’t have it all. When you finally come to accept that, it’s liberating. You don’t have to feel like a bad employee or a bad parent for not being able to do it all. As Al Pacino says in the Devil’s Advocate: “Guilt is like a bag of bricks, all you gotta do is set it down.”

So, take a look as one woman bows out of the rat race….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Departure Memo of the Day: Parenting Gets The Best Of One Biglaw Associate”

Looking for an epigraph for your departure memo? This man can help.

Writing your law firm departure memo: there’s an app for that? Well, not yet. (But you can certainly download the Above the Law app and read past farewell memos for inspiration.)

For now, the closest you can get is by starting your departure memo with a quotation from the late, great Steve Jobs. Like this one: “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers….”

Yes, that’s how one fairly senior associate at a top law firm began his good-bye email. We received it from a few tipsters, one of whom called it “the best departure memo ever.”

Okay, I don’t know if I’d go that far. There are a few I’d rank higher — Shinyung Oh, Tyler Coulson, and maybe the tea bagger. But this one is definitely up there….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Departure Memo of the Day: ‘Here’s To The Crazy Ones’”

Saying goodbye, why is it sad, makes us remember the good times we’ve had.

We love Biglaw departure memos. It’s so much fun to take a glimpse into the mind of somebody who is on their way out of the Biglaw racket.

Sure, we like the epic ones. And we even like the quirky ones that hint at a future full of adventures.

One thing we don’t see a lot of are the unabashedly positive ones. That makes some sense. If you loved your Biglaw job that much, you wouldn’t leave. But there are people who unabashedly enjoyed their time in the trenches of Biglaw.

Today we have a guy who laid down a glowing rhetorical flourish as he exited stage right….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Departure Memo of the Day: Leaving Is Its Own Reward”

Page 3 of 512345