* As an in-house compliance officer, there’s only one guarantee: you’ll be paid, and you’ll be paid quite well — we’re talking like six-figure salaries here. Regulatory corporate compliance, on the other hand, isn’t such a surefire thing. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]
* When it comes to employment data, this law dean claims that using full-time, long-term positions where bar passage is required as a standard to measure success in the employment market is “grossly misleading.” Uhh, come on, seriously? [Am Law Daily]
* “Bar passes and jobs are inextricably tied,” but eight of New York’s 15 law schools had lower bar passage rates than last year for the July exam. Guess which school came in dead last place. [New York Law Journal]
* Dominique Strauss-Kahn officially settled the sexual assault civil lawsuit that was filed against him by Nafissatou Diallo. Given that she thanked “everybody all over the world,” it was probably a nice payout. [CNN]
* Steven Keeva, a pioneer in work/life balance publications for lawyers, RIP. [ABA Journal]
It’s time to announce the winner of November’s Lawyer of the Month competition. Our five contestants all made the news recently for their deeds of derring-do, be they on the bench on the bike path. As usual, one of them stole the show, both in your votes and in national media coverage.
From Above the Law, to the Huffington Post, to the New York Times, November’s winner rocked the legal profession and caused many to reevaluate their lives — and ultimately, their happiness. As it turns out, sometimes the wonderful world of Biglaw isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
November brought us many things to be thankful for, ranging from time spent with family to hurricane relief efforts to the lawyerly antics worthy of representation in our Lawyer of the Month competition.
In what’s probably a first, the majority of this month’s contestants are judges, with a mere sprinkling of lawyers here and there. But when it comes to laying down the law — at least insomuch as this contest is concerned — these controversial jurists are top notch.
Let’s check out our nominees for November’s Lawyer of the Month….
One of my favorite recurring columns on Above the Law is the “Departure Memo of the Day.” Elie Mystal hit a nerve last week when he published a particularly depressing departure memo from a harried mother at Clifford Chance who was struggling, unsuccessfully, to balance the demands of parenthood and Biglaw. The departure memo lit up Twitter and even the Huffington Post decided to weigh in.
At many Biglaw firms, departure memos have become an ingrained part of the culture. Why are departure memos so ubiquitous, especially in Biglaw? The New York Times put it best:
“The ‘departure memo’ is a fixture at many large employers, and nowhere more so than at big law firms. Departures, particularly of young associates, are built into the business model. Not everyone is supposed to stay, and many never planned to stay, so leaving is often celebrated. Many of the ‘Departure Memos of the Day’ published on Above the Law fall into that category. Excitement at the next opportunity, and a little bit of glee at leaving, is completely acceptable, as is a little thumbing of the nose at the firm. Creativity isn’t unusual.”
The Clifford Chance departure memo struck a chord with many lawyers because it openly grappled with the struggle for work/life balance so familiar to so many of us. But it also raises bigger issues regarding the purpose intended by such missives….
Since we published, the story has gone everywhere. The Huffington Post weighed in, and so did the New York Times. I’m glad so many people are finding out that working at one of the top law firms in the world is really difficult. Welcome to our world — they’re not paying people $160,000 and up to work from 9 to 5.
But one disturbing trend in the coverage of this story is the move to blame the husband. Ms. X’s husband only appears once in her tick-tock:
7:45pm: Negotiate with husband over who will do bathtime and bedtime routine; lose
That line has led to rampant speculation about the deadbeat loser Ms. X must be married to. Vivia Chen of The Careerist had one of the more restrained slams on this guy: “Not to be presumptuous, but I think we should all chip in for some negotiation courses for this poor woman. I realize we don’t have all the facts, but her husband seems to be getting away with murder.”
Well, you know what? I’ve been a Biglaw associate, and a Biglaw spouse, and let me tell you, it’s not as easy as it looks. Just because a lady “loses” the negotiations on domestic chores doesn’t mean that she’s married to a sexist pig, and it doesn’t mean the guy is “getting away with murder”….
Not pictured: the Biglaw train barreling towards this family.
I’ve read this departure email three times this morning, all while a sleeping six-week-old snores up at me. It’s a departure memo where a Biglaw associate kind of admits that she can no longer juggle the demands of parenthood and the demands of being a Biglaw lawyer. In a way, it’s heartbreaking. I don’t know this woman, and I don’t know what her hopes and dreams are or might have been, but it shouldn’t be so damn hard — in the richest country on Earth — to have a big-time job and be a loving parent. The struggles highlighted by this woman make me sad as a new parent myself.
In another way, this memo is uplifting. You can’t have it all. When you finally come to accept that, it’s liberating. You don’t have to feel like a bad employee or a bad parent for not being able to do it all. As Al Pacino says in the Devil’s Advocate: “Guilt is like a bag of bricks, all you gotta do is set it down.”
So, take a look as one woman bows out of the rat race….
I remember when I first started practice, a Cravath partner said that you have to make it a priority to go on trips, see friends, and have a life.
– Goutam Jois, a litigation associate at Gibson Dunn, commenting on where he got his inspiration for achieving work/life balance in Biglaw. Jois leads a double life, practicing law by day, and performing stand-up comedy by night. He recently won the title of America’s Funniest Attorney after winning a contest at the Gotham Comedy Club.
Last month, a commenter responded to one of my posts with something to the effect of, “I knew your writing would start to suck once you had a kid.”
That statement, I think, will inevitably end up being true. How can anybody possibly be focused at work when they have a newborn at home? I’m writing this post while my three-week-old baby is sleeping in a rocker next to me. That means that I’m, at most, paying about 30 percent attention to what I’m writing. I don’t have a fun Argo reference for you, because instead of seeing the latest movie event of the fall, I spent the weekend trying to lower my diaper changing time. Right now, I’m about as engaged with this post as Obama was engaged in his debate with Mitt Romney.
And my kid is only three weeks old, which means he’s still functionally immobile. What’s going to happen when he’s crawling around? What’s going to happen when my Jamaican nanny — if you have some info on good, “cost-effective” child care, let me know — is calling me to ask if it’s okay if he eats the dog’s treats?
Yeah, I think my job will suffer. And my “job” involves coming online and making law students cry. I don’t have to structure billion-dollar deals or even key-cite an opinion.
So I have to ask all these people who claim they’ve achieved some kind of work/life balance, and that they “have it all” — what the f**k are you talking about?
When we speak about work/life balance here in these pages, we don’t tend to talk much about sex. The more important things always seem to come to the forefront of the conversation — things like endless days, sleepless nights, and soul-crushing stress. When that’s what lawyers in Biglaw firms are grappling with on a daily basis, is it really any wonder that no one gives pause to talk about sex (or a general lack thereof)?
Now, we know that lawyers aren’t completely asexual, but perhaps there just isn’t a place to speak about what seems to be a rather impolite topic. So let’s plunge in and assess the situation, complete with a reader poll about whether your jobs are killing your sex lives.
In the wise words of Salt-N-Pepa, let’s talk about sex, baby….
When you talk to a prospective lateral about your firm during their first meeting, the conversation can go deep, sideways, and in circles. There is so much to share and discuss. What path of a dialogue can you follow to get better odds of a favorable conclusion?
Consider this template as a model you can use to discuss your firm’s opportunity. This simplifies the conversation and gives you a mental framework so the discussion is meaningful, relevant and moves things forward.
The Four P’s
In my transition from retained corporate executive search to legal search, I saw that there were many levels of complexity in the move of a partner transitioning from firm A to firm B. In placing an executive in a corporation, it was simple because of the linear nature of relationships in corporations. In a law firm, because of the multi-layered aspect of the interdependent relationships that each partner must manage with others, the dialogue is much more involved.
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 six years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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