Oh, I pity the prospective law student who thinks that getting into law school means that he’ll never have to work at Burger King again.
There’s a departure memo going around the internet today — a kid sent a mean (and mildly racist) memo to his colleagues as he ended his employment relationship with Burger King. The kid is going to law school and feels the confidence to end his resignation letter with: “So, consider our bridges burnt.”
Or “flame broiled,” as it were.
But if all he’s got lined up is law school admission, I hope he’s still on good terms with the people at Wendy’s or something….
The Biglaw grind is not unlike being in Shawshank prison. It involves years of lockdown, with the occasional rooftop beer or comfortable library, interspersed with terrifying conversations that end with a partner saying, “Or am I being obtuse?”, and then locking you in solitary confinement.
After such an experience, everybody deserves a redemption.
Today’s excellent departure memo comes from a former comedian who decided to leave comedy to go into a top Biglaw job. That’s not a joke.
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….
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?
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….
It’s time to announce the winner of November’s Lawyer of the Month competition. Our five contestants all made the news recently for their deeds of derring-do, be they on the bench on the bike path. As usual, one of them stole the show, both in your votes and in national media coverage.
From Above the Law, to the Huffington Post, to the New York Times, November’s winner rocked the legal profession and caused many to reevaluate their lives — and ultimately, their happiness. As it turns out, sometimes the wonderful world of Biglaw isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
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….
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”….
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….
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.”
Professor Joel P. Trachtman (JD Harvard Law School) has developed a unique, practical guide to help lawyers analyze, argue, and write effectively.
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For most attorneys, time spent managing the books is a necessary evil at best. Yet it is undeniably a crucial aspect of running a successful practice. With that in mind, we invite you to view or download a free webinar by Above the Law and our friends at Clio to learn how to better manage your finances.
Take this opportunity to learn what it takes to streamline your accounting and get the most out of your time. The webinar agenda:
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Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past seven years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note that Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney are still in Hong Kong and will stay FOR THE REMAINDER OF THIS WEEK. We still have a handful of available slots for meetings with our Asia Chronicles fans. If we have not been in touch lately, reach out and let us know when we could meet! There is no need for an agenda at all. Most of our in-person meetings on these trips are with folks who understand that improving a legal practice through lateral hiring is an information-driven process that takes time to handle correctly.
Regarding trends in lateral US associate hiring in Hong Kong, we of course keep much of what we know off of this blog. Based on placement revenue, though, Kinney is having one of our most successful years ever in Asia. We are helping a number of our law firm clients with M&A, fund formation, cap markets, project finance, FCPA and disputes openings. These are very specific needs in many cases, so a conversation with us before jumping in may be helpful. As always, we like to be sure to get the maximum number of interviews per submission, using a well-informed, highly targeted, and selective approach, taking into account short, medium and long-term career aims.
Making a well informed decision during a job search is easier said than done – the information we provide comes from 10 years of being the market leader in US attorney placements at the top tier firms in Asia. There is no substitute for having known a hiring partner since he/she was an associate or for having helped a partner grow his or her practice from zip to zooming, and this is happily where we stand today – with years of background information on just about every relevant person in all the markets we serve, and most especially in Hong Kong/China/Greater Asia. So get in touch and get a download from us this week if we can fit it in, or soon in any case!