Congratulations to the newly minted Biglaw partners out there. Despite Biglaw’s current problems and murky future, it really is a signature professional achievement. So take a night, or a week, or even two to celebrate. And then get ready to start re-evaluating your entire life, top to bottom. You may not get a better chance, ever.
What am I talking about? Simple. In order to make partner in today’s Biglaw, you have made numerous sacrifices. Whether it be your student debt, your relationships, your waistline, or anything else, your sacrifice has now been validated. You now occupy a new professional status, and the nature of making partner is such that no matter how badly you screw up the rest of your life, you have accomplished something very rare. It is a life milestone, on par with getting married or winning the lottery in terms of its immediate alteration of your identity. A minute ago, you were single. Now, married. A minute ago, you were just another Biglaw associate. Now, you are a partner. Beautiful.
I am not discussing here the “professional” aspects about making partner, such as the need to start building a book of business, and how to handle yourself at the office. You will learn most of what you need to know on that front at your new partner orientation — a gloatfest galore, typically — and you will then spend a career figuring it all out.
Rather, I want to address some of the “personal” ramifications that hearing the good news of your “election” or “promotion” will lead to. Because it would be a shame to waste this golden opportunity to change the things about your life that you are less than perfectly satisfied with….
It’s not part of a legal strategy or way to churn the file; it’s an attorney-initiated discussion about the client smack in the middle of the case.
What usually happens is that the attorney is retained, legal work begins, the client is updated as to the status of the case/matter, asked to weigh in occasionally on strategy, and reminded about the pending bill. We see this as part of the job, but how do the clients perceive the representation?
At some point in the representation, the best chance you have to hear what the client is really thinking is when they are not happy. You’ll get that anxious phone call, that question that is really a criticism, and it is during those times that you focus on trying to make the client happy.
What if you were proactive?
What if you scheduled a non-billable meeting with the client, outside your office, for the sole purpose of allowing the client to voice their overall concerns after you’ve been representing them for a while?
Anytime my lawyer friends talk shop, my divorce lawyer friend always has the most interesting stories. A few months ago, a group of us went for happy hour. The conversation turned to a discussion of what we were doing at work. I said that my client was contemplating settlement over his parking lot lawsuit. Everyone yawned. My finance lawyer friend began to talk about securitizing something, but then just stopped talking because she knew her work was even more boring. This trend continued until my divorce lawyer friend talked about a recent trial. The highlights of her story included a lesbian affair and a mail-order bride. We were all rapt.
For that reason, I have wanted to profile a divorce firm for a while. Recently, I was lucky enough to have a conversation with San Francisco family lawyer (I guess they prefer that term) Erik Newton. His firm, Heath Newton LLP, has become a highly regarded boutique law firm that specializes in “Family Building,” “Divorce and Dissolution,” and “Asset Protection”….
As I approach the completion of my third full year at Above the Law, you’d think I wouldn’t feel the need to write a memo every time I take a week off so people don’t start partying like I’ve been fired. Yet… well, let’s just say that Dan Savage came to me in a dream and said, “It gets better — except for you, Elie.”
Marriage has been on my mind a lot this summer. I attended the wonderful wedding of an old friend last weekend. But mainly I’ve been thinking about marriage and family in the context of the many strong reactions to my debtposts.
Some of the most surprising reactions were from people who contended that I was essentially being a bad husband by quitting my Biglaw job while still saddled with serious debts. According to these people, including some women, a better husband would have stuck it out in Biglaw for however long it took until my wife and I could be debt-free.
Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Size Matters, one of Above the Law’s new columns for small-firm lawyers.
As I have previously discussed, one thing I wish to accomplish with this column (in addition to the instant boost of self-esteem I receive whenever I read a comment) is to provide specific information to attorneys considering small firms. To that end, meet Ray Prather and Daniel Ebner, principals of Prather Ebner LLP.
Ray Prather was a successful solo practitioner specializing in estate and trust planning. Dan Ebner, an HLS grad and former district court clerk, was a Kirkland & Ellis associate. Realizing that their backgrounds complemented each other — that Prather had experience in running a small firm, and that Ebner had a valuable referral source in Biglaw connections — these partners in life decided to become partners in law.
I am just starting law school and I have a boyfriend from college who’s in a different state now going for a degree in architecture. I like him a lot, but now that I’m here I’m wondering if I should rid myself of the distraction (especially during 1L first semester) or whether I should just start with a clean slate and see what the guys are like here. You’ve been around law school guys, do you think they are worth my time or should I hang on to my current guy unless/until something better comes along?
– Sophie’s Choice
Dear Sophie’s Choice,
This reminds me of those people who roll up to college with framed pictures of their “serious” high school boyfriends / girlfriends (who invariably were still seniors in high school) and leave parties early to return to the dorm to fight on the phone with them at 2 a.m. The primary purpose of these relationships is to provide a security blanket just in case they don’t make any friends in college, and when they inevitably DO make friends in college, the college person breaks up with the high school bf/gf because they finally realize that dating someone from high school is embarrassing and lame and going to prom in the cafeteria via limo is simply out of the question. This applies to everyone except for my parents, who prudently stayed together through high school, college and graduate school, in order to bestow upon this planet myself and two inferior siblings…
The evolution of relationships between the genders continues. Currently, in law firms, there is an interesting conundrum; balancing the desire for a gender-blind workplace where “the best lawyer gets the work and advances” and the reality of navigating the complicated maze created by the fact that, in general, men and women do possess differences in their work styles. These variations impact who they work with, how they work, how they build professional connections and how organizations ultimately leverage, reward and recognize the talents of all.
Henry Ford sat on his workbench and sighed. A year earlier, he had personally built 13,000 Model Ts with his own hands. Fashioning lugnuts and tie rods by hand, Ford was loath to ask for help. Sure, there were things about the car that he didn’t quite understand. This explains the lack of reliable navigation systems in the Model T. But Ford persevered because he knew that unless he did everything, he could not reliably call these cars his own.
“Unless my own personal toil is responsible for it, it may as well be called a Hyundai,” Ford remarked at the time.
The preceding may sound unfamiliar because it is categorically untrue. And also monumentally stupid. Henry Ford didn’t build all those cars by hand. He had help and plenty of it. Almost exactly one hundred years ago, Henry Ford opened up the most technologically advanced assembly line the world had ever seen. Built on the premise that work can be chopped up into digestible pieces and completed by many men better than one, the line ushered in an age of unparalleled productivity.
Today, an attorney refers business because he can’t do everything the client asks of him.
There are three reasons why this is way dumber than a made-up Henry Ford story…
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 protected].
Since late last year, things have been booming in Hong Kong / China in cap markets, especially Hong Kong IPOs. M&A deal flow has recently been getting a bit stronger as well. Although one can’t predict such things with any certainty, all signs are pointing to a banner entire 2014 for the top end US corporate and cap markets practices in Hong Kong / China. This is not really new news, as its been the feeling most in the market have had for a few months now and things continue to look good.
The head of our Asia practice, Evan Jowers, has been in Hong Kong for about 10 days a month (with trips every other month to both Shanghai and Bejing) for the past 7 months, and spending most of his time there meeting with senior US hiring partners at just about all the major US and UK firms there, as well as prospective candidates at all associate levels and partner levels, and when in the US, Evan works Asia hours and is regularly on the phone with such persons, as our the other members of our Asia team. Our Yuliya Vinokurova is in Hong Kong every other month and Robert is there about 5 times a year as well. While we have a solid Asia team of recruiters, Evan Jowers will spend at least some time with all of our candidates for Asia position. We have had long standing relationships, and good friendships in some cases, with hiring partners and other senior US partners in Asia for 8 years now.