Work/life balance

HiResThe New York Legal Marketing Association hosted its annual General Counsel Forum last week, featuring three prominent GCs from major New York industries: Jason Greenblatt of The Trump Organization, Ed Holmes of AIG Investments, and Scott Univer of the accounting firm WeiserMazars. Aric Press, editor in chief of American Lawyer Media, served as moderator.

Obviously, the industries and firms of all three GC panelists were rocked by the “dark, demanding and sleep-disturbing downturn in recent years,” and this forum — titled “What Keeps You Up At Night?” — was meant to provide them a chance to share their experiences and concerns with the packed house at the NYSSA. The conversation was a lively and wide-ranging one, covering such topics as reputation management, legal risk across multiple jurisdictions, the increasingly complex regulatory environment, and, most of all, how frustrating it is to deal with clueless law firms (and what the firms might do to alleviate this). Here are some highlights:

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Megan Grandinetti challenges busy lawyers to practice positivity.

A few years ago, I was buried in work and traveling for business. I ran into a friend of mine on a train in Philly, and he spent the next hour listening to (a) how many hours I worked, (b) how much I hated what I was working on, and (c) how the people at my Biglaw firm had zero regard for my personal life (wait a second, WHAT personal life?). I remember being fairly detached and casual as I was talking about all of this (I did NOT burst into tears, per usual), but years later, my friend told me that after that conversation, he had put me on “suicide watch.”

About a year after the suicide watch train incident, I realized that I had become a person that I didn’t recognize: a whiny, angry, sad person who only saw the negative in everything. I decided to do a 40-day challenge, during which I gave up complaining. That’s right, I stopped complaining for 40 days.

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center…

When you are starting your solo practice from scratch with no connections, clients, or money, expect to make many sacrifices in the beginning. You must sacrifice time with friends and family to attend networking events meeting people — most of them in the same position as you. You will miss many Simpsons episodes to read legal treatises and practice guides. Money will be spent to pay for office overhead — gifts, luxuries, and even student loan payments will have to wait.

Unfortunately, for one solo attorney, her pursuit of professional success required her to sacrifice one of life’s most treasured partnerships: her marriage. Over the weekend, solo practitioner Vivian Sobers announced on her blog that she and her husband of 11 years have decided to separate and eventually divorce.

Vivian’s story is not unusual. Most of us in our line of work have either experienced rocky relationships ourselves or know someone who has. What is unusual is that she is open about it, and I commend her for that. But here’s the question: is her law practice is to blame for the divorce, or did she bring this upon herself by choosing her career over family?

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Being a lawyer is time-consuming. First, you’ll have to subject yourself to spending three years in law school cramming knowledge into your brain. After you graduate, you’ll spend an inordinate amount of time trying to pass the bar exam and find a job. (If you’re incredibly lucky, you’ll have a job waiting for you at a Biglaw firm.) Last, but not least, once you’re working as an attorney, you’ll get to spend the vast majority of your waking hours at your desk.

Most practicing lawyers are lucky if they see sunlight, let alone have any semblance of what could be called a social life. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish all of the tasks that need to be done. That’s why being a lawyer landed on the latest ranking of careers that could have disastrous effects on your social life.

How high did lawyer rank on the “No Life Careers” list? Keep reading to find out…

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Keith Lee

Last week I wrote about the times when you experience loss in your career. It is a thing that everyone will face at some point. I touched on how to set aside and move on from these losses in order to continue on with your day, serving your clients, and doing your job.

But lawyers often let themselves get wrapped up in their jobs, letting them define who they are. When you are at work from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. five days a week and a few hours on the weekend, your job can come to define who you are whether you want it to or not.

You have to push back….

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Hop in the DeLorean and travel back in time with us.

Labor Day weekend is here. So let’s talk about… labor! In the Biglaw salt mines.

In response to our earlier Flashback Friday posts about associate compensation in the 1990s, we received a few requests for information about billable hours back then. People wanted to know how hard associates had to work back in the day for that $83,000 starting salary.

It’s a good question. You hear anecdotal evidence going in both directions. Sometimes people who have been in the profession for a long time talk about how hard they had to work before technology made things so much easier, recalling the bad old days of never-ending, hard-copy due diligence or document review. On other occasions, though, old timers reminisce about the good old ways when law was more of a profession and less of a business; sure, lawyers earned less, but they had lives — or , at least, better work-life balance.

Which picture holds more truth? Here’s some data….

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* 7 tips for surviving the first week of law school. Apparently tip #7 is “proofread numbered lists better.” [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News]

* Lost in the controversy over Trinity Western Law School and bigotry is the fact that it may not really be a good law school. [The Province]

* A conservative UChicago Law student explains why The Book of Mormon signals the fall of society. The essay is almost as funny as the show itself. [Red State]

* A crowdsourcing call for help in getting a “vexatious litigant” order against a particularly troublesome individual. If you’re interested in helping out, check this out. [Popehat]

* Not only is NYC routinely sued, but the city releases helpful reports containing “a bevy of settlement data.” [LFC360 / Legal Funding Central]

* Here are the five jobs that can ruin your social life. I wonder if lawyers are on here…. [Yahoo! Education]

Bruce Stachenfeld

I am famous for a saying. Actually I am not really famous, but I have a saying that I have been, well, saying for years, as follows:

“Lawyers are only happy when they’re miserable.”

What I mean is this: You are working round-the-clock so much you haven’t even been home for a full day and hardly at all for a month on a doozie of a deal. You are completely sick of it. All you can think of is when the deal will be “over.” You are clearly “miserable.” If only you could have your personal life back! Then, finally, the deal closes — at last. Your client is wiring out the funds. As the transfer of funds is happening, a (terrible) thought races through your mind. You hate yourself for the thought — you try not to have the thought — but you simply can’t help it… and the thought is that you are kind of worried because you have nothing to do now and that is disquieting… gee, what if work has really slowed… at some point this will be a real problem. You’ve had your personal life back for maybe a second — you haven’t even taken a shower — and you are worrying where your next deal will come from.

Or the other way around. Work has been slow — very slow — for a couple of months. You have enjoyed some rounds of golf and gone out to a bunch of dinners and lunches, but you really would like a nice tricky and challenging deal to sink your teeth into. And of course you are mindful of the fact that like it or not lawyers just have to bill hours. That is how we make a living, and you just aren’t billing hours. Not a good thing. You are edgy — if only you could have a big deal to work on….

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People are always talking about work/life balance at large law firms as if such a thing truly exists. For some associates, it does. They can go out and have a baby, “have a baby,” and do whatever it is they so please in their limited free time. For others, it’s a completely different story. They’re the first ones at the office and the last ones to leave. When they do go home, it’s to look at their family in passing or check their OKCupid accounts with a sigh, sleep for a few hours, take a shower, and put on a different suit. These associates have no lives, and it’s all thanks to their work.

Now, perhaps for the benefit of associates without lives, in the interest of work/life balance, this Biglaw firm is making it possible for its associates and counsel to do even more work than they already do…

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I was trying to achieve a work-life balance after I had missed my children’s lives.

Lee Smolen, the ex-Sidley Austin partner who was hit with ethics charges after he faked almost $70,000 in reimbursable car fare expenses, during his testimony last week before the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission. The IARDC seeks a temporary suspension of Smolen’s license to practice law as punishment for his pilfering.

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