New York Times

Amy Chua: return of the Tiger Mother.

That’s the question that occurred to me after reading the interesting New York Times profile of Amy “Tiger Mother” Chua and her husband, Jed Rubenfeld. In advance of the February 4 release of Chua and Rubenfeld’s new book, The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America (affiliate link), the Times decided to profile this pair of prominent professors at Yale Law School.

The Times article contains some interesting new tidbits — including, for example, the elite Ivy League college that just admitted Chuafeld’s youngest daughter….

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I’m an honest guy: I confessed publicly when The New York Times solicited me to write a piece about the legal profession and then rejected my submission (because it had been preempted by a DealBook special).

I confessed publicly again when I submitted a second piece — this time about the future of legal education — and was again promptly rejected.

But enough of confessions: Today, I’m here to gloat! Here’s a link to “Have We Met?” which appeared yesterday in the “Sunday Review” (formerly “The Week In Review”) section of The New York Times.

Part of me says that I should end this column right here. I should say something snooty like, “Hey, Lat! I published an essay in the Times yesterday. Isn’t that enough recreational writing for a week? I’m outta here.” But Lat would probably complain, saying that I hadn’t pulled either my weight or enough people through the “continue reading” icon. What can I tuck behind that icon that will suck you through the jump?

Aha! Three things! First, how do you get an op-ed published in the Sunday Times? Second, if you pull off that feat, how much does the Times pay you for your work? And, finally, do I have a clever story linking what I wrote in the Times to Above the Law? You’re in luck! . . .

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[W]hat I found most interesting was that their lives were often far more complex than they had predicted. Even the greatest of expectations, it seems, eventually encounter reality.

Florence Martin-Kessler, a journalist and documentary filmmaker, offering commentary on the lives of 21 women who were interviewed by New York Times Magazine 12 years ago. At the time, they were fresh out of law school, incredibly idealistic, and about to begin careers at Debevoise & Plimpton, where they planned to conquer the world. Today, “only a handful” of them are still with the firm.

Lawyers and puzzles fit together well. The practice of law is all about problem solving. It makes perfect sense to have logic games on the LSAT (despite the hatred that many of you might have for them).

So perhaps it won’t surprise you to learn that a king of the crossword puzzle world is a lawyer by training. Where did he go to law school, and why? And how did he make the jump from the legal profession to puzzles?

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1010 Fifth Avenue is just steps away from the Metropolitan Museum of Art (visible in the background).

Biglaw isn’t the only source of big bucks. In fact, some of the wealthiest lawyers in America are plaintiffs’ lawyers who work on their own or in small law firms.

But you don’t need to be a plaintiff-side lawyer from Texas to strike it rich. A partner at an elite litigation boutique in New York just bought an apartment once owned by a famous business mogul.

Let’s see what $12.5 million buys in the Big Apple these days….

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This show is creating a lot of hooked criminals.

This weekend, New York Times tech journalist Jenna Wortham made a confession that could be used to send her to prison for a year or more. What was the startling criminal admission? She uses someone else’s password to sign into HBO Go to watch “Game of Thrones.”

In the piece headlined, “No TV? No Subscription? No Problem,” Wortham wrote:

[Some friends and I] all had the same plan: to watch the season premiere of “Game of Thrones.” But only one person in our group had a cable television subscription to HBO, where it is shown. The rest of us had a crafty workaround.

She says “crafty.” A federal prosecutor might substitute “illegal” there….

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I’ve previously mentioned how much I enjoy The Hunt, Joyce Cohen’s weekly column in the New York Times in which she describes the housing search of someone brave enough to take on the NYC real estate market. Prior installments of the column have featured lawyers and even law students.

Last week’s installment featured a lawyer at Quinn Emanuel, who went house hunting with his wife, who works at a test-preparation company. The home they wound up getting would probably be viewed as bike storage by John Quinn, but it’s plenty nice by the standards of mere mortals.

How much did they pay, and how much space did they get? Would you be impressed if I told you they got 1,500 square feet for less than $750,000?

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series from Bruce MacEwen and Janet Stanton of Adam Smith Esq. and JDMatch. “Across the Desk” takes a thoughtful look at recruiting, career paths, professional development, human capital, and related issues. Some of these pieces have previously appeared, in slightly different form, on AdamSmithEsq.com.

I don’t know about you, but I find talent markets fascinating. They have several characteristics that make them quite distinctive from regular old goods and services markets:

  • Talent is extremely heterogeneous; it’s not as if there’s another Honda Accord where that one came from.
  • Talent is what economists call both “excludable” and “rivalrous,” meaning that if I hire you Suzie can’t hire you at the same time. (Knowledge is the classic non-rivalrous and non-excludable good; everyone can know the same thing at the same time without its impairing anyone else’s knowledge of that same thing, and without shutting off anyone else’s access to it.)
  • Talent is notoriously difficult to judge in advance, without actually experiencing it, that is to say, without actually hiring the individual and putting them to work in your organization. Some other markets approach this condition of “ignorance until purchased,” such as attending performing arts events or taking a vacation to a previously unknown locale, but the stakes tend to be much higher for all parties concerned in talent markets.
  • Once talent is hired, it’s stickier than most other purchases. You can walk out of the movie theater or reconfigure your travel plans, but once you hire someone, short of felonious or otherwise appalling behavior, you’re stuck with them for a decent interval.

All this leads to a number of devices and stratagems that attempt to mitigate uncertainty and delay serious resource commitments until some firsthand evaluation can be performed.

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“It comes down to this,” said Hayley Schafer, 30. “Is there anything else I’d be happy doing? No. Is there any way around paying off the loans? No. So, what the heck? A lot of it is just trying to put it out of your mind and maybe it’ll disappear.”

Schafer has more than $312,000 in educational debt and earns just $60,000. She must be a lawyer, right?

But Schafer’s not a lawyer or law school graduate. What does she do? The answer might surprise you….

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You need a college degree to get a good job. That’s been the case for some time. But a story in the New York Times yesterday pointed out that in this economy, you need a college degree to get a bad job. Increasingly, you need a college degree to get most kinds of office jobs, even if those jobs are as intellectually simple as “receptionist.”

I suspect that’s been true for some time as well. At this point, I expect every “white-collar” employee I interact with to have at least “some college.” Actually, I expect most blue-collar people I interact with to be formally educated as well, albeit in a different country. We’re living in an age of over-credentialization. Just like everybody in Hollywood has had a little work done, one expects that everybody in an office has had to sit through a terminally boring lecture on how many miles you have to go before you can fall asleep to a boring Robert Frost poem.

But, there’s getting a little work done, and there’s walking around with flotation devices bolted to your chest.

And I wonder, to extend the analogy to its logical conclusion, if getting a law degree is kind of like a waitress borrowing $10K to get a boob job thinking that getting her DDs is all that’s standing between her making $9.50 plus tips versus becoming a movie star….

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