Farewell

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….

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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”….

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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….

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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….

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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….

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Hey girl, did you like being a Biglaw associate? I know you did. But now it's time to make sweet love to a new career.

We’re taking a break from covering the “nothing to see here” capital call from Greenberg Traurig to cover people fleeing Greenberg Traurig.

I’m just kidding. We’ve got a fun departure memo from an associate who happens to be from Greenberg, but I don’t think this woman’s departure has anything to do with the firm’s financial health. Instead, she’s just pursuing new opportunities.

And it looks like she’ll be leaving with fond memories of her time at Greenberg. We know that from her choice of ’90s R&B bands that she used to herald her leaving….

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Yesterday, we broke the news of the dean of St. Louis University School of Law’s abrupt departure, and the accompanying fiery resignation letter she sent to the powers that be at the university. Ex-dean Annette Clark’s missive was more of a bitchslap than anything else, but like Phillip J. Closius before her, she made it absolutely clear that she would rather quit her job than run a law school whose sole function was to serve as the university’s cash cow.

Now that the dust has settled a bit, we’ve found out that Clark’s passionate letter may have been penned in one of those “can’t fire me, I quit” type scenarios. Clark may have purported to be going to the mattresses for her students, and she might have been doing just that. But as we all know, there are two sides to every story….

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Another law dean blows the whistle.

Law School Deans, rise.

At some point, the deans of law schools will have to stand up and stand against the way universities use law schools as cash cows. At some point, law deans are going to have to tell their bosses that university programs cannot be funded on the backs of law students who are already paying too much for tuition in a still terrible job market.

And you know what? Standing up for what’s right, and standing up against the blatant price gouging happening at so many law schools, will cost some people their jobs.

Law students who read this resignation letter should ask themselves if their law deans are going to the mattresses for them every day, or if the deans are just rolling over and submitting to university pressures while trying to hang onto their jobs….

UPDATE (7:15 PM): We’ve added a response from the president of the university in question after the jump.

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When the music stops, will your law school have a dean?

Earlier this year, we wrote about Jeremy Paul, the dean of the University of Connecticut School of Law.

UConn Law has dropped a number of spots in the U.S. News law school rankings over the past few years, and in March, Dean Paul announced that he was stepping down as dean at the end of the 2012-2013 academic year.

Paul is an interesting case. After he tried to explain UConn’s performance in the most recent U.S. News rankings, we caught an email from a law professor trying to cheer up the beleaguered dean.

But Paul doesn’t need anybody’s pity. He’s ready to blow this popsicle stand, and he’s set to do it in the middle of the summer….

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Over the past few days, we’ve received numerous emails from our readers asking about the fate of the Clerkship Scramble. This website, a popular read among the clerkship-crazed (we count ourselves in this camp), went offline sometime last week, on or about July 4. If you go to its former address, you’ll encounter this message: “Sorry, the blog at clerkshipscramble.blogspot.com has been removed. This address is not available for new blogs.” The site archives are gone, and they don’t seem to be available via Google Cache either (at least not on a comprehensive basis).

The Clerkship Scramble has been gone for just about a week, and readers already miss it. Fans have described it to us as “very useful,” “a promising site that filled a much-needed information gap,” “the best unofficial resource for law students applying to clerkships,” and “so good!” The site maintained data about clerkship placement rates by law school, compiled rankings of Supreme Court feeder judges, offered advice about the application process, and broke clerkship-related news (such as Georgetown Law’s decision to abandon the Law Clerk Hiring Plan).

So what happened to the Clerkship Scramble?

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