Travel / Vacation

In Stealth Lawyers, their excellent ongoing video series on career alternatives for attorneys, our friends at Bloomberg Law have covered the range of human needs. They’ve written about lawyers who help us eat, drink, and laugh. Is there really more to life than that?

As a matter of fact, there is. It’s important that you smell good while doing all these things.

Bloomberg has you covered. In today’s installment, they profile a prosecutor turned perfumer. Before he switched careers, he saved up a lot of money….

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I’ve been living in London for almost three months now, so it’s time to declare myself a native. What do natives know about the City?

First: Dryer technology is apparently too tricky for this country. Listen, chaps: A dryer is supposed to dry your clothes.

These folks don’t get it. They’ve invented a washer/dryer thingy: You put your clothes in the machine, press some buttons, and the machine washes your clothes. Without moving your clothes, you then push some more buttons, and the machine spins and makes some noise. At the end of the so-called “dry cycle,” you remove your clothes from the washer/dryer thingy and hang your clothes in the living room to dry.

The United Kingdom is one of eight countries in the world that has successfully detonated a nuclear weapon, but these boys can’t crack dryer technology? What’s up with that?

Hey, maybe that’s an answer! Nuke the friggin’ clothes! They might come out a tad radioactive, but at least they’d be dry, and they wouldn’t be hanging in my living room. Or maybe you could import some dryers from the United States: We’ve got a bunch that work, and we could use the export business.

But dryers are the least of it . . . .

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Happy Thanksgiving from the TSA.

I wish I could tell you that Americans fought the good fight, and the TSA let us be. I wish I could tell you that — but holiday travel is no fairy-tale world. We never said who did it, but we all knew. Things went on like that for awhile — travel consists of routine, and then more routine. Every so often, Americans would show up with fresh bruises. The TSA kept at us — sometimes we were able to fight ‘em off, sometimes not. And that’s how it went for American travelers — that was our routine.

Today is the biggest travel day of the year, and for another Thanksgiving, Americans will be doing it under the watchful eye of the Orwellian Transportation Security And Molestation Administration. The $8 billion dollar organization is alive, well, and entrenched. And nobody can accuse the freshly reelected Democratic president of doing anything to protect our civil liberties against the TSA. Nor has the supposedly liberty-loving Tea Party made aggressive groping at airports a major issue.

But for the most part, the country seems resigned to the TSA’s continued existence. Ooh, now kids under 12 don’t have to take off their shoes. Progress! We don’t sue them, we don’t legislate against them, we just kind of take it and hope that they decide to take their hands off our junk out of the kindness of their hearts.

We’ve got a couple of stories that, in their own way, highlight how cowed we’ve become….

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Yesterday, we wrote about Patrick Shields, the Quinn Emanuel partner who mysteriously vanished from the firm’s web site, with, as far as we could discern, nothing more than plans for an extended Irish vacation.

What the heck happened?

Well, it turns out Shields’s story is quite simple and a reflection of something most of us have felt at one time or another. Namely: burnout.

We heard from a tipster familiar with Shields’s situation, who explained to us how burnout led the star IP litigator to do the “coolest thing possible”…

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Biglaw lawyers behave badly sometimes. And Biglaw lawyers sometimes use travel as an excuse to behave badly. But no one likes to talk about the bad things they see their colleagues do. It is bad for business, especially since it is the rainmakers that usually behave the worst. Bad behavior is usually just ignored, and only gets revealed as confirming evidence of a former colleague’s failings — if and when the firm decides enough is enough and cuts ties with the evildoer. Sometimes that never happens, and the sociopath becomes a “firm leader.” Biglaw is a business, after all, and powerful people need to get away with the things powerful people decide they are entitled to do. So Biglaw lawyers and staff generally keep quiet.

When I was an associate, I was lucky enough to work with pretty decent people. Even though I did a lot of work traveling, with a variety of senior attorneys, I was never exposed to any behavior that was out of line. Back at the office, there usually was a spate of gossip following partner retreats, but that was tame stuff. To be honest, a group of pasty old partners hitting a strip club, or some millionaire partner sitting at the ten-grand-a-hand blackjack table, did not strike me as that scandalous. Especially when I was exposed in the office to blatant overstaffing of matters, do-nothing partners and associates “reviewing” things, and similar other profit-drivers that normal people would consider theft. (My firm was not so bad on the padding front; other firms I saw from cases I was on were far worse. But that is a discussion for another time.)

There was one time, however, when I saw openly unprofessional behavior, perpetrated by a pretty important Biglaw figure no less. And I kept quiet about it, despite the temptation to email Lat and expose what I saw. Now that I have this platform, I still intend to protect the identity of the Biglaw figure that I saw with my own eyes publicly debase his or herself and our shared profession. Why? For the sake of his or her family, clients, and firm. And for Biglaw — we don’t need more scandals, especially stale ones. And when there is innocent collateral damage to consider, I think it best to keep my mouth shut. If this person’s fate is to be exposed for other indiscretions, it will happen. Going by the lack of discretion they exhibited publicly (which I witnessed with my own eyes), there is a good chance they feel immune. Maybe they are. We’ll see — and I have no doubt that if things ever catch up to them, ATL will be there to capture the happenings.

So what did I see? First, some background….

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At this point, stuff like this doesn’t even make me mad. I’m just impressed. In a few years, I swear Ashton Kutcher will come out and that he’s been secretly working with the Transportation Security Administration on a new airport-themed reboot of Punk’d.

They dump grandpa’s ashes all over the floor. They accuse some guy of carrying a weapon, when it’s just his massive package. And now they apparently believe the massively overpriced, burnt Starbucks coffee you bought after getting ambiguously naked x-ray photos taken of you is SOMEHOW worth screening too.

[Stops to breathe]

OK. Let’s take a look. And, yes, OF COURSE we have video….

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I watched the sunset with my son last night. I told him that today would never come again, and that I was so happy to have watched the day end next to him. It then occurred to me that I had missed so many events since becoming a practicing lawyer; and for what? The easy answer is that I was such a hungry young turk, that I would always choose work over play because that is what lawyers do. Especially Biglaw attorneys. It was simply a rite of passage to regularly catch the 8:03 p.m. with a couple of oilcans of Foster’s Lager, arrive home after 9 p.m., and be up again at 6 a.m. to rinse and repeat.

Even more hardcore was pulling an all-nighter in an effort to prepare a brief for filing. Associates would lament, with an undercurrent of braggadocio, about how they had to cancel a vacation in order to complete a filing. And the funny thing is, I don’t recall any partners cancelling anything — ever. So, the hard (and candid) answer is that I was a fool….

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Better than jail…

* “He’s stupid. I wouldn’t even count him as a Republican.” Many Republican women at the RNC wish that the men like Rep. Todd Akin would just shut up about abortion, rape, and contraception. [Reuters]

* Everything’s bigger in Texas, including the discrimination against minorities. A panel of judges on a D.C. federal court shot down the state’s redistricting plans for lack of compliance with the VRA. [Washington Post]

* A disgruntled Stanford Law graduate’s defamation and retaliation suit against the school was dismissed. Sorry, but it’s highly doubtful that a law professor blacklisted you from getting a job. [National Law Journal]

* “[T]here’s a surplus of attorneys and not enough jobs for it.” Lincoln Memorial’s president admits amid accreditation issues that perhaps it wasn’t the best time to open Duncan Law. [Knoxville News Sentinel]

* “I don’t know if this was worth it, but I did have a good time in Cancun.” Skipping deliberations to go on vacation is a great way to earn yourself a trip to jail, but this girl got lucky. [Proof & Hearsay / Journal Sentinel]

* Continental faces a lawsuit after baggage handlers allegedly removed a sex toy from a passenger’s luggage and taped it outside the bag for the world to see. At least it wasn’t the TSA. [Courthouse News Service]

Tom Wallerstein

I recently had a client ask me about asset protection strategies. Having read The Firm (affiliate link) before I ever went to law school, and mindful of the classic Tom Cruise movie of the same name, of course I did what any diligent attorney devoted to client-service would do: I headed off to the Cayman Islands to investigate.

Due to an unfortunate series of strange boating accidents which I am not at liberty to discuss, my trip ended up lasting a bit longer than I expected. My email and telephone conversations also became compromised, hence my extended ATL hiatus.

Alas, the good guys prevailed, I am back safe and sound, and I’m happy to write about some of my reflections from beautiful Cayman (pronounced, as I learned from the locals, “Cay-Man,” with two distinct, equally prominent syllables, almost rhyming with “Cave-Man;” not “Cay-min” rhyming with “layman”)….

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I’m one of those lawyers that goes on vacation. Not just long weekends, real vacations. I pity those of you that pride yourselves in announcing, “I don’t take vacations.” Good for you, you pathetic drone. I didn’t take vacations at first, as I was always fearful that someone would call to hire me on a non-emergency basis and wouldn’t wait until I came back. Now I don’t care. If you can’t wait until I come back, there are plenty of lawyers on the internet to hire that can take your PayPal payment online and send you whatever documents you think you need to handle your case.

When was I able to take my first two-week vacation and not worry about business? After 14 years in private practice. I say that because I know how patient all of you are out there.

First, let me congratulate the commentariat, who I found in San Francisco had turned their child-like recurring comments into a t-shirt business. See, there’s all kinds of ways to make money as an unemployed lawyer, not to worry. (For those of you that tell me you don’t read the comments, it’s okay, just look at the picture and imagine those phrases being said over and over again, anonymously.)

Anyway, when I’m on vacation, I think about my business. I think about what I love, what I hate, and what I want to change. There is nothing like thinking about your business (not the cases or the clients) while you are away from the phone calls (if your phone is ringing), other interruptions, the deadlines, and all the trappings of a lawyer’s day. (That was tip number one of today’s column for those of you shallow folks that can’t comprehend messages that aren’t in your face with drawings.)

One of the things I do a lot while I’m away is watch other businesses. I try to figure out how they make their money, why their employees are happy, or unhappy, why their customers patronize the store, restaurant, tour company, and how they handle problems. You’re an idiot if you are trying to build your law practice solely by watching how other lawyers run their practices. Client dynamics can be found in many places, and ideas come from everywhere. Most lawyers are doing it wrong anyway. (Enter tip number two — see how that works?)

Here’s what I saw over two weeks in California….

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