Work/life balance

Ed. note: Please welcome our newest columnist, Gaston Kroub of Kroub, Silbersher & Kolmykov PLLC, an intellectual property litigation boutique here in New York. He’s writing about leaving a Biglaw partnership to start his own firm.

For some reason, while in Biglaw I always seemed to find myself working late in the office on Christmas Eve. Whether it was getting deposition notices out, or making sure that a brief would be ready for filing right after the turn of the year, there were always more billable hours to crank out (even in those years when I had already made it into the next bonus category as an associate, and was not one of those people volunteering for an end-of-year document review in order to make my hours). Particularly as an associate, the end-of-year was usually a peaceful time, as partners left for their year-end vacations, and normally compressed litigation schedules slackened a bit.

In many ways, Christmas Eve was always one of the most peaceful days of the year in Biglaw. For starters, many of the attorneys and a good percentage of the staff were usually out. And those who showed up for work started to trickle out immediately after lunchtime, with a mass exodus around the time of office closing, usually around 3 p.m. I always enjoyed the four or five hours afterwards immensely, where the normal hustle and bustle of the office got replaced by a more serene atmosphere. I was never one to stay in the office unnecessarily, so when I would finish whatever needed to get done, I too would leave. But there was usually at least one project that needed seeing through, and Christmas Eve afforded the luxury of focusing on getting one thing wrapped up without the usual workplace distractions….

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Keith Lee

Ed. note: Please welcome Keith Lee of Associate’s Mind, one of our new columnists covering the world of small law firms.

Being in a small firm has repercussions on your existing activities and relationships. Going out, hobbies, spending time with friends and family and the like are often going to have to take a back seat to maintaining your practice. You simply won’t have the time for people that you had in the past. If you aren’t careful, this shift in priorities can cause resentment and ill will.

And despite lawyers complaining that they feel as though they can’t start families, I would imagine that most people do desire to start families or already have a family. Is it hard to balance time spent with family and friends while maintaining and growing a practice? Absolutely. Are you going to be able to have some vague, idyllic “work/life balance”? Nope. But can you have a family and be a lawyer? Of course; it’s ridiculous to suggest otherwise.

It comes with some caveats and difficulties, but it can be done. It’s important that the people in your life understand these difficulties — and it begins with managing expectations….

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ThanksgivingEd. note: This is the latest post in our series of ATL infographics — visual representations of our own proprietary data, relevant third-party data, “anecdata,” or just plain jokes.

Elie here. My first “Black Friday” (that’s the Friday after Thanksgiving for those who reject consumerism in all of its forms) while working in Biglaw, I went into the office. My second Black Friday, I went to the therapist. I didn’t make it to my third one.

Thanksgiving is next week, and while you certainly shouldn’t have to work on Thursday, Friday is a different matter. So, we’ve put together this helpful decision matrix to figure out if you actually have to drag yourself into your Biglaw office on Friday… or if you can sleep off your turkey hangover surrounded by your family and/or the escort you paid to make your holiday feel less empty…

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Earlier this week, we asked readers to submit possible captions for this photo:

On Friday, you voted on the finalists, and now it’s time to announce the winner of our caption contest…

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Earlier this week, we asked readers to submit possible captions for this photo:

Let’s have a look at what our readers came up with, and vote on the finalists…

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Sorry to disappoint you, but no, we didn’t mean “babes” as in “gorgeous men” or “beautiful women.” (Besides, as we’ve been told by readers multiple times, those are like unicorns in Biglaw.)

For what it’s worth, we meant babies. People working in large law firms are always complaining about a lack of work/life balance, so we imagine it must be awfully difficult for them to get in quality time with their young children. Even being able to change a diaper or two would be a welcome change for some of these folks.

From the looks of it, at least one considerate law firm is trying to help its attorneys do just that…

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About a month ago, I read an article about a new position available for experienced attorneys at a certain Biglaw firm. The firm? Kilpatrick Townsend. The position? Something called a “department attorney.”

Before we get into what that is, and some of the implications for Biglaw if this new kind of position takes hold, let’s take a look at the listing of open positions on Kilpatrick’s website. Currently, the firm is advertising for nine associate positions, six of which are in the patent area (including two for patent “prosection” (sic) associates, who hopefully will be better at including all the letters in a word than the firm’s recruiting staff).

Want to be a department attorney? Well, for you there are ten open positions. The breakdown? Eight in trademarks, two in patent prosecution. The common denominator of those disciplines? Shrinking margins for Biglaw, in the face of competition from IP boutiques specializing in volume work, and bulked-up in-house departments doing more on their own. In light of those shrinking margins, the firm’s desire to hire more department attorneys than full-bore associates is understandable. At least they are hiring….

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Andrew L. SandlerEd. note: This is the latest installment of The ATL Interrogatories, brought to you by Lateral Link. This recurring feature will give notable law firm partners an opportunity to share insights and experiences about the legal profession and careers in law, as well as about their firms and themselves.

Andrew L. Sandler, Chairman and Executive Partner of BuckleySandler LLP and Chief Executive Officer of Treliant Risk Advisors LLP, is a recognized leader in financial services litigation, enforcement, regulation, and compliance. A wide range of financial services companies look to Mr. Sandler for strategic advice and to help them navigate complex litigation and civil and criminal investigations and examinations by federal and state enforcement and bank regulatory agencies. You can read his full bio here.

1. What is the greatest challenge to the legal industry over the next 5 years?

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* Fine Print as “Surrealist Masterpiece.” Because sometimes you need legal analysis involving Foucault. [Concurring Opinions]

* Speaking of fine print, the story behind an attack ad in Virginia is all about fine print. Virginia AG Ken Cuccinelli is running an attack ad against Terry McAuliffe connecting him to the collapse of Global Crossing. The problem is the former Global Crossing workers in the ad thought they were talking to a documentary film crew about the company, not making an ad attacking McAuliffe. Should have read that waiver form more closely! [Mother Jones]

* JPMorgan Chase is dropping out of the student loan business. Must be getting too difficult to package likely defaults into some kind of billion-dollar derivative these days. [American Banker]

* A New York attorney candidly tells the world that dealing with his kids “is not my problem” because he has a long-suffering wife for that job. See conservatives, gay marriage hasn’t destroyed all the traditional families. [Dealbreaker]

* More analysis on the legality of intervention in Syria under international law. Welcome to the art of writing listicles, Lawfare! [Lawfare]

* A Q&A with Ignatius Grande of Hughes Hubbard & Reed on the importance of Twitter for clients and law firms. Intriguingly, Hughes Hubbard doesn’t have an active Twitter account. What gives? [Commercial Litigation Insider]

* The NFL’s concussion settlement wasn’t just about screwing over the former players, but about the NFL covering up its business practices. But who cares, KICKOFF TONIGHT Y’ALL! [Grantland]

* We’re not saying you should drop out of school, but if you do, try to make it like these people. Video embedded after the jump. [Bloomberg via YouTube]

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I got a raise when I had my baby, which was a very nice gesture from the Breaking Media CEO. It was also the only way I could keep working here. You see, child care costs are such in this city that before my raise I would have saved money by quitting my job and taking care of the baby full time, instead of having to pay somebody to look after him while I’m at work. Now, I’m a little bit past the break-even point, so I take what they pay me, give it to my creditors and my child’s nanny (we can only afford to have her for 30 hours a week, but I’ve gotten much better at typing with one hand, as I’m doing right now), and have a little bit left over to buy liquor and ad-free porn (err… typing practice). My wife’s salary handles all the rest — trivial items such as “rent” and “food.”

So yeah, I pretty much write every day just because I love spending time with you guys [weeping softly].

It turns out, I’m not alone. An article in the New York Times details the child-care squeeze on middle-class families. We’re not talking about “working poor” families who have always struggled with child care costs while Republicans berate them for not pulling themselves up by their bootstraps. The article focuses on mothers with good jobs, professors and lawyers, who can’t really afford to pay someone to take care of their brood.

I suppose it’s not really a “Biglaw” problem. If you have one of those jobs, you can probably afford child care, or (more likely) afford for your spouse not to work. But if you don’t cash in with Biglaw, you’d probably settle for having your kids raised by wolves if the wolves came cheap….

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