Your ATL editors: David Lat, Staci Zaretsky, and Elie Mystal.
Thanks a lot to everyone who came out on Wednesday night to attend the Above the Law New Year’s party!
The festivities were well-attended, and the bar was full of action — no seriously, there may or may not have been a couple making out the whole night. Thanks to our sponsor, Lateral Link, for such a great evening.
Yeah yeah, we know, it’s the internet, so of course this post is “WWOP.” So let’s get some pics up in here….
Someone posted the following astonishing comment in response to one of my columns a few months back:
“I’ve never worked in a Biglaw firm, but what happens if an associate just says no, I am busy this weekend, or no, I am on vacation that week, so I won’t be able to do that project. Do you immediately get fired? If that’s true, then you must not really have much to offer to the firm in the first place. In a situation where the associate had some real value to offer to the firm, I do not see why the firm would fire someone for that. Am I hopelessly naive?”
Go ahead — laugh. Get it out of your system. You know perfectly well your guffaws wear thin, right about when that twinge of poignancy creeps in. You, too, once mulled the notion of rising above the fray — going all Bartleby the Scrivener and muttering, “I’d prefer not to,” when asked — oops, I mean told — to work and work and work and work and work….
I participated recently in a panel discussion at a conference, speaking with other lawyer/blogger types in front of an audience consisting largely of people from law firms and law schools. After we finished, I did the decent thing and sat and listened to the panel that followed mine. I happened to choose an empty seat next to a woman who introduced herself to me later as a dean at a law school, in charge of career placement, or whatever the euphemism is for trying to find students non-existent jobs. The law school was a small one — yes, one of those dreaded “third tier” places.
She confronted me afterwards. “I guess I’m the bad guy, huh?”
I was startled by her candor, but I knew what she meant. This was one of those people from a third tier law school — the greedy cynical fraudsters signing kids up for worthless degrees, then leaving them high and dry, unemployed and deeply in debt.
Despite her participation in crimes against humanity, I had to admit she didn’t seem so bad, in person.
Then I snapped back to my senses — and went on the attack, assuming my sacred role as The People’s burning spear of vengeance….
Remember Green Acres, that fish-out-of-water comedy wherein Eddie Albert drags Eva Gabor out to live on some tumbledown farm in the middle of nowhere? She’s a Park Avenue socialite, but he’s the husband and the penis-haver and it’s the 1960′s — so what he says, goes. If he’s jonesing for fresh air and farm living, she has no choice.
I don’t remember much more than the theme song and opening credits, but the concept — giving it all up, packing your bags and fleeing for the sticks, spouse (and maybe kids) in hand — resonates with my lawyer clients. Some are beginning to sound like aspiring Eddie Alberts.
I’d like to say there’s a great lawyer return to the land on the way — driven by a love for nature and the outdoors. To some extent that’s true. But mostly, it’s a product of desperation. The big themes are escaping Biglaw misery, seeking adventure, looking for a healthier lifestyle… and fleeing school loans. One client’s story weaves these themes into a magical tapestry of personal growth, spiritual awakening, and debt avoidance.
He was suffering modestly at a Biglaw firm in L.A. Then he got posted to an office in Asia, where he happened to speak the language. There he discovered how bad bad can be. The U.S. office dished out standard-issue Biglaw brutality. Nothing could have prepared him for the Asia office. The cruelties committed by the local staff and attorneys would make Hieronymus Bosch wince. In their laser-beam-like focus on punishing my client for speaking their language and attempting to work in their homeland, they achieved new plateau of sadism on a weekly basis. He developed insomnia, migraines, then panic attacks — and was fired a year later, without comment.
That’s when the Green Acres theme began playing in his head….
When I launched The People’s Therapist, my intent was to get stuff off my chest — process a smidgen of psychic trauma. I’d write a column or two, exorcise the odd demon, piss off Sullivan & Cromwell, and call it a day.
It never occurred to me I’d be deluged with lawyers as clients.
“I study. Then I study some more. Then I go to sleep. Then I get up and study again. It’s the same for everyone.”
At least, I proposed, the subject matter was interesting.
She demurred. “Yeah, I guess… but — really? I mean… Property law? Contracts? Torts?”
Her demurrer was sustained. She had a point.
Maybe it’s your turn to demur. The subject matter of law school — law itself — not interesting!?? That’s unthinkable. It has to be the school’s fault — my client must be attending some fourth-tier degree mill, with subpar teaching, and a dull-witted student body….
A visit to my office has evolved into something akin to the road to Lourdes. Pilgrims arrive red-eyed and defeated, faces etched with misery, searching for a way out of a trap.
The standard story is some variant of the following: You are either out of work or loathe your work. You have $180k in loans. You have either no income or an impermanent income paid to you in exchange for any joy life might offer. You see no hope.
Let me spell out the critical element here: You are one hundred and eighty thousand dollars in debt.
Just to fully drive the point home: that’s bankruptcy-proof debt.
You’ve yelled at your parents, but it’s not really their fault. You’ve wept and wailed and gotten drunk and stoned and consumed a scrip of Xanax. You’ve tried sleeping and pretending you don’t have to wake up.
Then comes the pilgrimage. Perhaps I can heal with a laying on of hands….
At Barnes & Noble, where I once worked as a marketing exec, we bandied about the phrase “aspirational purchase” to portray a small, but profitable segment of our sales.
Aspirational purchase meant you bought the book not because you were going to read it, but because you aspired to read it. You might even convince yourself you were going to — but in all likelihood, it would serve as a pretentious coffee table tchotchke, an impressive (if un-cracked) spine on a decorative bookshelf, or a useful device to prop up a little kid’s butt so he could reach the cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving.
An aspirational purchase is intended to impress — you want to be seen buying it. It tends to be something conservative as well. And long. And difficult. “War and Peace” is the classic aspirational purchase, but you might also pick up something with a political message that makes you look wise and open-minded, like “The Satanic Verses” (which, for the record, I actually read.) (No, I’ve never plumbed War and Peace. However, I embrace the fact that plenty of you certainly have read it, and yes, loved it and desire for me to acknowledge you’ve read it and how much you loved it — to which I reply, in advance, how very nice for you.)
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note that Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney are still in Hong Kong and will stay FOR THE REMAINDER OF THIS WEEK. We still have a handful of available slots for meetings with our Asia Chronicles fans. If we have not been in touch lately, reach out and let us know when we could meet! There is no need for an agenda at all. Most of our in-person meetings on these trips are with folks who understand that improving a legal practice through lateral hiring is an information-driven process that takes time to handle correctly.
Regarding trends in lateral US associate hiring in Hong Kong, we of course keep much of what we know off of this blog. Based on placement revenue, though, Kinney is having one of our most successful years ever in Asia. We are helping a number of our law firm clients with M&A, fund formation, cap markets, project finance, FCPA and disputes openings. These are very specific needs in many cases, so a conversation with us before jumping in may be helpful. As always, we like to be sure to get the maximum number of interviews per submission, using a well-informed, highly targeted, and selective approach, taking into account short, medium and long-term career aims.
Making a well informed decision during a job search is easier said than done – the information we provide comes from 10 years of being the market leader in US attorney placements at the top tier firms in Asia. There is no substitute for having known a hiring partner since he/she was an associate or for having helped a partner grow his or her practice from zip to zooming, and this is happily where we stand today – with years of background information on just about every relevant person in all the markets we serve, and most especially in Hong Kong/China/Greater Asia. So get in touch and get a download from us this week if we can fit it in, or soon in any case!
The legal industry is being disrupted at every level by technological advances. While legal tech entrepreneurs and innovators are racing to create a more efficient and productive future, there is widespread indifference on the part of attorneys toward these emerging technologies.
When the LexisNexis Cloud Technology Survey results were reported earlier this year, it showed that attorneys were starting to peer less skeptically into the future, and slowly but surely leaning more toward all the benefits the law cloud has to offer.
Because let’s face it, plenty of attorneys are perhaps a bit too comfortable with their “system” of practice management, which may or may not include neon highlighters, sticky notes, dog-eared file folders, and a word processing program that was last updated when the term “raise the roof” was still de rigueur.