Travel / Vacation

I probably took just a dozen business trips as an associate (I travel much more frequently now as an in-house lawyer). A dozen is also about the total number of hours I actually spent working on all those flights combined. I just never could pass up the “free” travel billables, even if it meant working all night on arrival.

A more or less typical trip, described after the jump.

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The calendar says it’s spring. Though the schizophrenic weather we have had this year probably has you questioning even that basic principle of time-telling, it’s time to make plans for post-winter 2014. We are in the long stretch between Presidents’ Day and Memorial Day, and when work is getting you down thoughts drift to the siren’s song of summer vacation. Now that you’re no longer in school, that phrase doesn’t dominate your life quite so thoroughly, but planning to spent time sitting on a beach drinking something tropical can really get you through a tough day.

But how can you relax on a beach when you know you’re losing money by being there? Not just because that cocktail is an absurd $14 but because there’s no paycheck getting automatically deposited into your bank account while you lie on the beach. And while you know, intellectually, that as a temporary worker you are not afforded benefits like paid time off, the reality can still be a bit startling as you wonder how to relax while worrying about making rent.

So how do you enjoy your time off as a contract attorney?

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You learn a lot of lessons practicing in Biglaw. A big one is that you can never be prepared enough. There is always another opinion of your presiding judge to read, or a brief drafted by your opponent in an earlier case to review. Anyone who makes it more than a few years in Biglaw learns that lesson. But as much as preparation is valued, and pursued with fervor as an ideal onto itself, there is absolutely no way for even the most idealistic Biglaw recruit to fully appreciate what they are getting themselves into.

As many know, law school itself has little to teach about the realities of Biglaw, other than to idealize it as a fantasy land of big paychecks and “interesting work.” And everyone’s Biglaw experience is so unique that anecdotal tidbits are of limited utility. Does the professor, who so proudly includes on his resume a two year stint as a M&A associate at a white-shoe firm two decades ago, have much actionable advice to give a graduating 3L headed for a first-year post at even that same firm? Not really, except to perhaps suggest that the best type of relationship with that firm is one where it is your former employer….

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In last week’s column, I drew some customer service lessons for lawyers from the way that Disney treats visitors to its theme parks. This week, I want to focus on how Disney incorporates technological advances into its theme parks as a means of enhancing the customer experience.

On my recent visit, I was struck by the presence of two familiar pieces of technology from the “real world” within the Disney parks: (1) Disney’s new smartphone app for theme park visitors and (2) the availability of wi-fi in most areas of the park. Each example illustrates distinct yet relate, approaches to implementing technology for the benefit of the customer. And while I am sure that each took Disney many man-hours to develop, test, and roll-out publicly, it was refreshing for me as a lawyer to see a company of that stature making the investment to do so. It was also a real contrast to my Biglaw experience, where implementing technology in a way tailored to improve the client (and even employee) experience was all too often a low priority….

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Where The Wild Things Are (affiliate link)

Grover Cleveland’s excellent book of career advice for young lawyers has a delightful title: Swimming Lessons For Baby Sharks (affiliate link). It nicely captures the competitive nature of the legal profession today.

But the cutthroat competition isn’t for everyone. One high-powered lawyer, coming up on partnership at a top-tier law firm, decided he didn’t want to swim with grown-up sharks. He’d rather go swim with blue whales — quite literally. He’d rather be where the wild things are — and by “wild things,” we aren’t talking about cute drunken paralegals at a post-closing party.

Let’s look at this lawyer’s departure memo — great opening line, or greatest opening line? — and find out how he made enough money to break out of Biglaw’s golden handcuffs….

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Litigation powerhouse Quinn Emanuel is known for many things, perhaps the most important of which is making money hand over fist. In the latest Am Law 100 rankings, the firm grew its gross revenue by 17.8 percent, posting revenue per lawyer of about $1.2 million and profits per partner of $4.4 million. That’s certainly a selling point — but perhaps what the firm is best-known for is its quirkiness. Quinn Emanuel is a firm that does things a little differently than any of the competition.

You may recall that starting in 2012, the firm did away with Biglaw’s tried and true method of summer associate recruiting — interview, check pulse, make offer — in favor of “fun, freewheeling ‘get to know you’ parties.” The firm apparently likes attorneys with social skills. Quinn Emanuel has thrown formal workplace fashion to the wayside and actively encourages its associates to dress casually because it “improves [their] creativity.” It’s no surprise that QE made our list of the 12 top rated firms last year.

This is a firm that likes to have fun, and say what you will about its most recent bonuses, but its fearless leaders want its associates to be happy. We think that Quinn Emanuel’s latest initiative may keep the firm at the top of our rankings for years to come….

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Everyone has an opinion about a trip to Disney World. Some people relish immersing themselves in the experience, while others bemoan the long lines, incessant invitations to spend money, and roaming packs of at-turns hyperactive and hysterical children.

Personally, I fall somewhere in the middle, if leaning a bit to being a Disney-phile as opposed to a Disney-phobe. Having just spent a week there with my family, I can attest to the importance of having realistic expectations regarding the trip — such as recognizing that it will not be a relaxing “vacation,” in the traditional sense. Whether physically or emotionally, anything more than a day visit can be quite draining. At the same time, it is also a lot of fun, and can be quite educational for the kids as well. And there is a lot we can learn as lawyers from the way that Disney goes about its business….

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Judge Boyce F. Martin Jr.

Judicial misconduct comes from all across the ideological spectrum. Judge Richard Cebull of Montana, who reportedly spewed out racist emails like an ATM dispensing twenties, was an anti-Obama conservative. Meanwhile, Judge Boyce F. Martin Jr., whose ethical troubles we alluded to yesterday, was a prominent progressive on the Sixth Circuit.

Judge Martin was appointed to the court in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter and wrote major opinions attacking the death penalty and defending affirmative action. He also penned fun opinions that included references to The Simpsons and Austin Powers.

Alas, this liberal lion has roared his last. Did an investigation into possible judicial misconduct help drive Judge Martin from the bench?

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When I moved last year from Chicago to London, my morning workout changed along with my postal code: Instead of lifting weights and jogging on alternate days, I now jog every morning, plodding through my lap around Regent’s Park. Either the new exercise regime or my appetite for British food has affected me: Although I hadn’t realized it, I’ve lost a fair amount of weight this past year. (I started at only 5’10″ and maybe 175 lbs; losing 20 pounds wasn’t necessarily a good thing.)

Here’s what I noticed when my wife and I recently visited Chicago: When you’re in your twenties and lose weight, your friends say, “Hey, Mark! You’re looking good!” When you’re in your fifties and lose weight, your friends whisper to your wife: “Pssst: Is Mark okay?”

Anyway, our son, Jeremy (you remember him), recently survived his medical school boards and visited us in London for a while. He joined me for a few of my morning jaunts. I sprinted; he jogged. We both went the same pace.

All of this prompted me to reflect on the differences between the States and the Kingdom. I’ve previously noted that the United States cleans the UK’s clock in a couple of areas, such as dryer and traffic-light technology. But the reverse is also true: The Kingdom beats the States in a couple of noteworthy ways….

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When was the last long trip you took? For many of you, especially those of you who work at law firms, it might have been you post-bar-exam trip or your honeymoon. But it was probably a really long time ago.

How would you like to go on a trip that never ends? How would you like to leave your office behind and visit different countries, learning about different cultures and expressing yourself along the way?

If you have a camera and a laptop, you might be able to turn this dream into a reality….

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