Travel / Vacation

From time to time, I find it necessary to give Above the Law readers an extended break from their tireless work as copy editors, issue spotters, and defenders of American values. That’s right — it’s time for me to go vacation.

What will I be doing? Well, to be honest, I’ve been inspired by the Bonobos ad campaign. It reminded me that there was a time when I was interested in a broad array of topics — like the behavioral proclivities of bonobo apes — that had nothing to do with the legal issues of the day. I used to care about things like ape sex, string theory, and Egyptian eunuchs. So I’m taking a bit of a cultural holiday. MoMa, Museum of Natural History, Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking, here I come….

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Ed. note: This post is written by Will Meyerhofer, a Biglaw attorney turned psychotherapist, whom we profiled. A former Sullivan & Cromwell attorney, he holds degrees from Harvard, NYU Law, and The Hunter College School of Social Work. He blogs at The People’s Therapist.

As some of you have noticed, his weekly Wednesday column has been on hiatus. He offers this memo to explain his summer vacation from Above the Law.

What is it about lawyers and vacations? Like the old saying about long-horn cattle and a Texas fence — they just don’t get along so good. It’s like a physical aversion.

I worked with a client recently who was planning, in utter frustration, to quit his medium-size firm in a medium-size American city. The partner was lecturing him about his billable hours, but business was dead slow so there was nothing to bill for. The lawyer found out later that all his peers were simply billing for work that hadn’t been done yet, on the theory that they’d be laid off by the time the proverbial cow-patty and the fan were joined in unison.

He couldn’t bring himself to fake his time records to that degree, so he was stomping mad, announcing in stentorian tones that this was it, he was quitting. I urged him to stick around and see if he couldn’t get laid off with everyone else, so he could at least receive unemployment. No, he insisted – he needed out now.

Well, I reasoned, then why not take some vacation, so you can cool off and kill time simultaneously?

That was unthinkable….

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Welcome to the next in our series on the results of the 2010 ATL/Career Center Associate Satisfaction survey.  We’ve used the survey results to revamp the Career Center, powered by Lateral Link, with completely updated profiles and each week, we are highlighting insider information that Members shared about their firms in the eight key areas of associate satisfaction covered by the Career Center.

Today, getting away from it all (or not): face time and vacation policy.

  • Face time at this firm, “one of the best names to have on your resume, bar none," varies by partner and practice group, but in general, Members report that the firm puts no particular emphasis on face time.
  • This firm, a Beltway insider, offers a Reduced Workload Policy, which allows attorneys to work  reduced schedules to fulfill family care responsibilities as well as activities designed to enhance professional development or stature in the legal community.
  • This firm’s extensive overseas office network may contribute to its "generally good" attitude about respecting vacations and the fact that most associates are generally "able to use all of [their] vacation time."
  • This Chicago-based "powerhouse" recently made the switch to an unlimited vacation policy, allowing attorneys to take vacation days at their discretion; Members say most attorneys use the policy judiciously and average between two and three weeks of vacation.

Who else is getting more vacation than you are? Additional highlights, after the jump.

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So you’ve been laid off. What do you do? There are so many options: sulk; cry; send out résumés; try to sell your degree; spend time in the Above the Law comments section, complaining about your deadbeat firm…

Or you could take your 2009 Porsche Cayman S on a road trip across America. That’s what a laid-off sixth-year associate did when she got canned by her prestigious AmLaw 20 firm. The associate from an East Coast office is keeping her identity under wraps, so we’ll call her Porschia.

The “double ivy league educated corporate lawyer” started a blog about her adventures, called Driving with Gusto, which has beautiful photos of spacious skies, amber waves of grain, and purple mountain majesties.

While the Porsche is a manual, we wouldn’t say she drives stick. Porschia is a lesbian, and so there are many fun tales of hot girl-on-girl action from across the fruited plains…

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Elie Six Train Vacation.JPGLast year at this time, I took a winter break to visit sunny Las Vegas. Everything went well until a drunk Irishman pushed all in with A-Q, against my A-K wired. He flopped a queen, two days’ worth of winnings evaporated, and I tried to commit suicide via the MGM Grand lion enclosure.
This year, I’m taking no such chances, and staying away from the City of Sin. Instead I’ll be heading to a much more wholesome place. With casinos. And strippers. But no lions.
I’d tell you where, but a recent subway experience has me gun shy about giving out my GPS coordinates on the internet….

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Scott Rothstein George Clooney Up in the Air.jpgIn the new movie Up in the Air — which is worth seeing, if you haven’t already — Ryan Bingham, played by George Clooney, is on a quest to rack up 10 million frequent flyer miles. That’s a heck of a lot of miles. In the Walter Kirn novel the film was based on, it was a more realistic one million miles (but, as film critic Kenneth Turan notes, “that’s product placement and inflation for you”).
To some people, however, 10 million miles — or points, the credit-card version of miles, also redeemable for free air travel and other goodies — is chump change. From the Miami Herald:

[Ponzi schemer Scott] Rothstein (inset left) racked up 20,920,701 rewards points on his Amex card — and the feds want to grab them all to help pay back his victims. Generally, American Express doles out one point for every dollar charged on the card, which can be used to buy merchandise, airline tickets, hotel rooms, restaurant meals and gift cards.

So, what did Scott Rothstein do to accrue all those points?

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Wilmer Hale logo.JPGI can only recall one time when a partner “encouraged” me to use all of my vacation time. As I remember it, the conversation went something like this:
ME: I’m seriously considering killing you and all of the people in this building.
BOSS: Huzzah! I like that kind of fighting spirit. You will go far, young man.
ME: If I don’t sleep in the next two hours I cannot be responsible for my actions.
BOSS: Your tears make me strong.
ME: Fine. Fine! Enjoy the malpractice lawsuit I’m about to create with this priv log. Your treasured [senior associate] won’t catch my egregious errors. She’s so tired she’s here in sweatpants and a hairnet.
BOSS: Maybe you should take a vacation.
ME: Ya think?
BOSS: A permanent one.
ME: Exact… oh. Umm … [Elie starts to cry.]
BOSS: [Slurp] There, there. In a few weeks you will blow your entire budget on a last-minute getaway to Grand Cayman. You’ll feel momentarily better while at the same time convincing yourself that you cannot live without the salary I provide. Then you shall be [Slurp] refreshing … I mean “refreshed.”
But when I was working in Biglaw, the economy was booming, work was flowing, and all was right with the world.
Now, things are different. So it’s not that surprising that a firm like WilmerHale really wants people to use all of their vacation. Immediately.

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Akerman logo.JPGWe previously reported on Ropes & Gray hoarding Tamiflu for its employees. Reaction was mixed. Some people applauded Ropes looking out for the health of their employees and their families; others feared that Ropes was unwittingly contributing to a drug-resistant strain of the H1N1 virus.
But there are many ways to prevent an outbreak of piggy pestilence at a law firm near you. One of the most, dare I say rational, measures is to make sure that people who are sick aren’t coming into work.
That’s what they are doing at Akerman Senterfitt. The Washington Post reports (gavel bang: ABA Journal) that the firm is allowing people with the sickness to take time off of work, without counting it against their allotted leave time:

When Great Falls resident Carolyn Cuppernull’s 10-year-old daughter came down with swine flu, she didn’t have to take time off work to stay home with her.
Cuppernull is senior marketing manager of the Washington office of the law firm Akerman Senterfitt. Under the group’s former policy, she would have had to use paid leave to stay home if she or a relative got sick. But the firm recently updated its rules to allow employees to stay home with full pay — without using leave time — for H1N1-related absences.

Now that’s a way to make sure your office doesn’t suffer a swine flu outbreak without potentially contributing to the mutation of a global super virus.
Of course, there is a downside.

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Albert Freed penis pain.jpgLet’s get the boring stuff out of the way. Albert Freed (pictured) won a trip to Hawaii (not pictured). As part of the vacation celebration, Mrs. Freed bought her husband some new Hanes brand briefs. But Mr. Freed is a husky gentleman, and apparently the new trunks couldn’t contain all of his junk. He sued Hanes, claiming they made “defective” underwear.
Let me turn it over to Escambia County (FL) Judge Pat Kinsey:
Freed v Hanes 1.jpg
A question for the guys out there: How long would it take you to correct a problem involving sandpaper and your penis? Don’t you think penis chafing is something that requires immediate attention and decisive action?
And while we’re here, how long does it take for you to notice your stuff hanging out where it is not supposed to be?
Check out Albert’s excuse after the jump.

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Back from Vacation.jpgHello, Above the Law community. I’m back from hiatus. I’m away for a whole week and what happens, law firms stop laying people off. Coincidence? Dear God I hope so.
I didn’t follow any legal or non-legal news during my absence, so I’ll be counting on you guys to bring me up to speed. But I’m not too concerned. I’m like Tiger Woods on Sunday with a 54-hole lead, I never lose.
It’s great to be back.

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