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.
You don’t often hear many good things about diversity in the legal profession. Women lawyers continue to be told how to dress themselves, and minorities have to grapple with racist typos.
Despite the negativity that exists in the law when it comes to issues of gender, race, and sexual orientation, there are some law firms that are doing their best to make sure their attorneys are as diverse as their practice areas.
Which law firms came out on top in terms of diversity? Check out Vault’s rankings to find out…
Each year, associates and partners wait with anticipation for American Lawyer to roll out its signature rankings. First comes the influential Am Law 100, followed by the closely watched Am Law 200, and finally comes the annual A-List, the most associate-focused ranking of them all. This ranking identifies the most “well-rounded” of all Am Law 100 firms (i.e., the firms that are “the total package”).
The A-List differs from other Am Law rankings in that only one financial metric is involved — revenue per lawyer (RPL). The other factors included in this ranking are pro bono work, diversity, and most importantly, associate satisfaction. Double the weight is typically given to firms’ RPL and pro bono scores, and we usually see the same firms in the top three. That was not the case at all this time around.
This year, we’ve got a wildly different top three, and a new number one. Which 20 firms came out on top?
Last week I wrote about the bar exam. This week I am hearkening back to happier times after first and/or second year of law school: fat paycheck, lunch out everyday, the life of a Biglaw summer associate.
But maybe it isn’t quite the same experience for everyone….
* We’ve discussed the troubling statistics showing that black people are by and large shut out of career advancement in Biglaw. Aric Press, editor-in-chief at ALM, discusses the study with Lee Pacchia below…. [Mimesis Law]
On any day of the week, it’s highly likely that a Biglaw firm will be trumpeting news of its successful diversity initiatives from any available media rooftop. The public relations folks at these law firms really want you to know that their hallowed halls aren’t completely jam-packed full of old white men — in fact, only 86.1 percent of them are old white men, so there.
Given the glowing alabaster hue of most Biglaw firms, you can see where it could be difficult for members of their so-called diversity committees to actually relate to those who are considered “diverse” in law firm parlance. We’re talking about lawyers of a different gender, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, but in law firm world, they might as well be otherworldly beings.
We’re told that some of these foreign creatures may be working in your very own law firm. If you’d like to learn how to interact with them, feel free to take some advice from one of the most absurd diversity memos we’ve ever seen…
Ed. note: This is the latest installment of the ATL Interrogatories. This recurring feature will give notable law firm partners an opportunity to share insights and experiences about the legal profession and careers in law, as well as about their firms and themselves.
Carol B. Ervin leads the Employment Law Practice Group at Young Clement Rivers, LLP. A highly experienced trial attorney, Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers and an Associate Member of the American Board of Trial Advocates, she focuses her practice on the representation of businesses in employment law and litigation. Carol was recently elected the Chair of ALFA International, the Global Legal Network, and previously served as Chair of ALFA International’s Labor and Employment Practice Group.
1. What is the greatest challenge to the legal industry over the next 5 years?
* When it comes to the air pollution case that’s currently before the Supreme Court, it seems like the justices had absolutely no difficulty at all in evaluating the type of problem at hand. It’s apparently a “tough” one and a “hard” one. [New York Times]
* Thanks to the historic new Senate rules put into action last month, Patricia Ann Millett, the co-head of Akin Gump’s Supreme Court and national appellate practice group, has been confirmed to the D.C. Circuit. You go girl! [Post Politics / Washington Post]
* The Senate showdown isn’t quite over yet, folks. We could see another confirmation vote on Georgetown Law professor Nina Pillard’s nomination to the D.C. Circuit sometime today. [Blog of Legal Times]
* “We risk failure in having a profession that is as diverse as the country we serve.” OMG guys, the legal profession is bad at diversity. This is new information that no one’s heard before. [National Law Journal]
* Now that the recession is over, women are gaining their jobs back faster than all their male counterparts. Not to worry, guys — they’re still being paid 77 cents to every dollar a man earns. [Corporate Counsel]
* Here are the top five social media mishaps by lawyers and law students of 2013. If you value your career, you should really try not to do any of these embarrassing things during the new year. [Strategist / FindLaw]
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: email@example.com.
Things have changed recently in Korea – a few of our US and UK client firms are looking, very selectively, for a lateral US associate hire. Until just recently, there was not much hiring like this going on in Korea, since US and UK firms started opening offices there. We have already placed two US associates in Korea in the past month at top firms. Most of the hiring partners we work with in Korea do not actively work with other recruiters.
If you are a Korean fluent US associate in London, New York or another major US market, 2nd to 6th year, at a top 20 firm, with cap markets or M&A focus (or mix), or project finance background, and you are interested in lateraling to Korea to a top US or UK firm, please feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Our head of Asia, Evan Jowers, was just in Korea recently, and Evan and Robert Kinney will be in Korea in a few weeks. We are in the process of helping several firms open new offices in Korea (a number of which are interviewing our partner level candidates) and also helping existing offices there fill openings.
Professor Joel P. Trachtman has developed a unique, practical guide to help lawyers analyze, argue, and write effectively.
The Tools of Argument: How the Best Lawyers Think, Argue, and Win is a highly readable 200-page book, available for about $10 in paperback or e-book. Chapters focus on foundational principles in legal argument: procedure, interpretation of contracts and statutes, use of evidence, and more. The material covered is taught only implicitly in law school. Yet, when up-and-coming attorneys master these straightforward tools, they will think and argue like the best lawyers.
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.
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