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.”
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….
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….
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).
Maybe a young Brando can play DeMayo in the movie.
Earlier this week, we shared an epic departure memo from the former marketing director at the Law Offices of Michael A. DeMayo LLP. In the memo, the woman (whom we nicknamed “Peggy Olson”) blasted her boss: “Of all the THOUSANDS of people I have met over the past 38 years, you are by far the most egotistical, self-absorbed, delusional, disrespectful and narcissistic person I have ever met.”
Well, it turns out that Michael A. DeMayo has some defenders in the Law Offices of Michael A. DeMayo. Or, at least one defender. Or maybe he’s defending himself?
Who knows. All we can tell you is that we received a fax (yes, not only do some people still use fax machines, but apparently Above the Law actually has one that we keep right next to our beepers and mercury-infused health drinks). It’s a full-throated defense of Michael DeMayo, replete with allegations that Peggy is going through a difficult situation that precipitated her departure memo meltdown.
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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 six years. You can reach them by email: email@example.com.
Deal flow has clearly picked recently up for most US associates, counsels and partners in Hong Kong/China and Singapore. We are on the phone with a lot of these folks on a daily basis, many of whom we have known for years. Further, the head of our Asia team, Evan Jowers, and Kinney’s founder and president, Robert Kinney, frequently meet in person with leading US partners in Asia to assess their needs and keep on top of the inside scoop at as many firms as possible. The need for legal recruiting help in Asia from experienced recruiters appears to be live and well. In March, Evan and Robert were in Beijing at such meetings, in April, Evan was in Hong Kong, and for half of June Evan will be in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Thus its pretty easy for us to tell when there has been an across-the-market pick up in capital markets and corporate work.
On an average day in Asia when Evan and Robert visit firms, they typically have 5 to 9 meetings a day, mostly with US partners in the market. The reason they have these meetings is not simply because Kinney makes a lot of US attorney placements in Asia and that a particular firm may have openings; instead these are just visits with friends. After years of working together as business partners, the folks at Kinney are actually these peoples’ friends. The firms Kinney work closely with in Asia (which is just about every law firm – call us if you want to know the one firm in the world we will never place anyone with again, ever, and why) look forward to the visits, or at least act like they do. After seven years in the market, many of the client partners are former associate candidates. Also, these US partners see Kinney as a very good source of market information as well, because they know how deep their contacts are in the market and how frequently they are speaking to counterparts at peer firms.
In a land that is right here and in a time that is right now, a technology has arisen so powerful that it can replace basic human document review. Is it time to bow down before our new robot overlords?
First, here’s a little story about me: my life in the legal world began as a paralegal. My first case was a GIANT patent infringement case that was already six years old and had involved as many as five companies, multiple US courts, the ITC and an international standards committee. I knew nothing about any of this.
On my first day, my supervisor (a paralegal with at least eight other cases driving her crazy) sat me down in front of a Concordance database with a 100,000+ patents and patent file histories. “Code these,” she said. I learned that “coding”, for the purposes of this exercise, meant manually typing the inventor’s name, the title of the patent, the assignee, the file date, and other objective data for each document. I worked on that project – and only that project – for at least the first six months of my job. After a week or so, time began to blur.
What I know, in retrospect and with absolutely certainty, is that as time began to blur, so did my judgment. So did my attention to detail. If you could tell me that I did not make at least one mistake a day – one inconsistent spelling, one reversed day and month, one incorrectly spaced title – I frankly would need to see your evidence. I would not believe it. The human mind is trainable but it is not a machine.
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