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16 posts from February 2012

February 29, 2012

Men on Paternity Leave Are Slackers at Home

© klickerminth - Fotolia.comThe good news is that paternity leave is getting more attention. The not-so-good news is that men aren't really taking care of the baby when they take time off. In fact, many are using the time to do more work.

That's the finding in a recently released study by University of Virginia professor Steven Rhoads and his son Christopher Rhoads, who teaches at the University of Connecticut. The study, which appears in Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology, surveyed 181 married, heterosexual, tenure-track professors with small children.

Here's the real stunner in the report, reports UVa Today:

Only three of 109 male faculty members surveyed reported that they did half or more of the care, while 70 of 73 women reported doing at least half. On average, both men and women professors reported that the mother did more than half the work for all 25 of the child care tasks. This result holds even when the male professor's wife works full-time.

The female professors also reported higher average enjoyment scores than males on 24 of the 25 child care tasks. (The sole exception was managing the division of labor for parenting tasks, which men disliked less than women.)

So men favor "managing" the work—not the actual messy job of parenting. That's nice.

Interestingly, the report suggests that paternity leave be eliminated, because men are using it to further their careers, thereby creating greater inequity for women who actually take time off. Here's how UVa Today describes this thinking:

"In this area, refusal to take sex differences seriously, rather than helping women, leads to a policy that could injure females seeking tenure by giving their male counterparts an unfair advantage," the study concludes. While only about 12 percent of men currently utilize their postbirth leave option, the study finds that "if men should begin to take leave in much larger numbers, far from leveling the playing field, gender-neutral, postbirth leaves are likely to tilt the field further in favor of men."

Sounds fine, except that the authors seem to be making a regressive point—equating biology with destiny. The report cites studies about how male versus female hormones affect child rearing, and how kids just naturally want to cling to mommies. As UVa Today notes, Rhoads senior had argued in a 2004 book, Taking Sex Differences Seriously, "that sex differences in nurturing, aggression, and sex itself are not socially constructed but are instead deeply rooted in biology."

What I find plausible, unfortunately, is that men probably do less child care than women even when they're at home. But eliminating paternity leave as a way to "help" women? You really expect me to fall for that ruse?

Hat tip: Wall Street Journal's The Juggle

Related post: Does Dad Care About Work/Life Balance?

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February 28, 2012

Maybe It's Not Just Dinner

Joan_rogerIt always boils down to sex.

Recently, I wrote about how men in power are reluctant to sponsor young women because of the sexual innuendos that might arise. In particular, I wrote about their squeamishness about having a business meal with a female subordinate outside of the office. I was incredulous that men could be so uptight.

Well, readers, I got a slew of mail taking me to task. One in-house counsel writes:

The reason we (older male management lawyers) don’t want to have lunch or dinner with younger, lower-ranked females is because we been lectured to, sometimes yearly, about the evils of sexual harassment. And it has been made VERY clear to us that all it takes is an allegation to really start trouble. One little misunderstanding, and the career is in ruins. . . .  And once an allegation of sexual harassment is made, it is in your file forever. 

Worse, it isn't just perception. There's the very real possibility that all that togetherness will lead to temptation. "You spend time with a young woman who looks up to you, and you feel flattered, and before you know it, one thing leads to another," says a partner at a New York firm. "Things happen."

Indeed, illicit relationships happen all the time. "In our survey, 34 percent of executive women say they know people who have had affairs with their bosses," says economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett. "We're talking about illicit romance."

Moreover, Hewlett's study, which is summarized in Harvard Business Review, finds that 15 percent of women in senior corporate positions had affairs themselves. "They also perceive that these liaisons sometimes yield a payoff: of those who know of an illicit affair, 37 percent claim that the woman involved received a career boost as a consequence."

Yikes. This is not much better than the shenanigans in Mad Men. No wonder everyone is uptight.

Is there any way to make it "safe" for a sponsor and his female protégé to get together? For starters, Hewlett says it's key that employers make clear that sexual relationships between boss and subordinates will not be tolerated. Hewlett also advocates institutionalizing sponsorship; she cites American Express as an example of a organization that's created a "culture of  sponsorship." To make it work, she advocates transparency—literally. Pick restaurants that are "surrounded by glass. So you can have an evening meeting without gossip."

Legal consultant Karen Kaplowitz thinks one way for women to nip gossip in the bud is to adopt a "personal policy of not dating people with whom you work, and let people know about it." And for male sponsors, she suggests that they send out a clear signal that they are "off-limits for personal relationships by treating women lawyers very professionally." Kaplowitz also advises that men avoid commenting on women's attire or appearance. (She also tells women not to dress provocatively.)

None of this sounds terribly jolly. And it doesn't seem women will ever enjoy the kind of  fun "buddy" relationship that exists between senior men and male associates.

It's a pity that there aren't enough gay male partners to go around.

Prior post: It's Just Dinner. Really.

Photo: AMC's Mad Men

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February 27, 2012

Best Law Schools in a Shaky Market

Legally_blonde_WikipediaLet's get to the point: The market for lawyers is still crummy. And if your dream is to make it in Big Law, you should do everything you can to get into Harvard Law School. Not that it's the greatest law school in the land, but because Harvard keeps popping up at the top of the lists for new hires and partnership.

First, the big picture: Law firms are doing better, and partners are raking in the dough again—but they're not sharing. One key indicator is that they're very tight on hiring even from the top law schools. Reports Karen Sloan for The National Law Journal:

 The 20 law schools most popular with hiring firms in 2007 sent a combined 55 percent of their graduates to NLJ 250 firms—the nation's largest by attorney head count. For the class of 2011, that percentage was 36.

Moreover, the NLJ says that "no single law school sent more than 57 percent of its graduates to NLJ 250 firms"—a marked contrast to 2007, when Columbia Law School sent 75 percent, and Northwestern University, NYU, and University of Chicago law schools sent about 70 percent of their graduates to big firms.

Though it's tougher all around to get those lucrative firm jobs, Harvard grads seem to fare better. Here's what the NLJ finds:

    1.  Harvard grads represented the highest number of new partners in 2011. (Followed by the University of Virginia, Georgetown, Columbia, University of Texas, NYU, Vanderbilt, University of Michigan, George Washington, and Fordham.)

    2. Big firms can't seem to get enough Harvard grads. In 2011, Skadden hired 28 Harvard grads; Latham, 16; Gibson, Dunn, 11; Sidley & Austin, ten.

    3. Harvard ranked fourth of all law schools for sending the highest percentage of grads to big firms. I would guess, though, that a sizable chunk of Harvard grads opted for clerkships. (Penn ranked first, followed by Northwestern and Columbia. Others in the top ten after Harvard are Stanford, Boalt, Chicago, Duke, NYU, and University of Virginia.)

So if you didn't get into Harvard Law, where should you go? Based on schools that landed on the top ten for both new hires and new partners, these are the next-best bets:

    1. Columbia Law School (it ranked fourth for new partners, and third for most hires among NLJ 250).

    2. University of Virginia Law School (second for new partners, tenth for most hires).

    3. NYU School of Law (sixth for new partners, ninth for most hires).

Of course, what's notable is the school that's missing from the top ten on these lists: Yale.

What can I say? Guess Yale is just too good for the crass materialism of Big Law.


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February 24, 2012

Moi? Hostile About Big Law?

Foster_Bible_Egyptians_Afflicted_the_IsraelitesI must be doing my job, because readers often send me angry e-mails. They usually fall into two camps—those who accuse me of being antimale, and those who accuse me of not being [properly] supportive of the sisterhood (click here and here).

But recently I got a new complaint—that I'm too hostile about the legal profession, particularly Big Law:

am curious why you write a blog about law? You seem to hate being a lawyer so much. . .  I can't help but notice that nearly every day there's a crack about how awful Big Law is, or today, it was generalized to all of law as being "not what it's cracked up to be."
It seems strange that you would put yourself out as a commentator on a field that you didn't like and didn't stay in.
Me? I've just finished my first year as partner in big law. I'm a mom . . . I have a wonderful husband. . . . It's a tough tough career to be sure, but I can't imagine anything else I'd rather do. 

This reader goes on to say that my "snipey comments about Big Law" are "unprofessional." She adds, "They make me think you might not be well-situated to be commenting on it since you didn't succeed at it."


I was bemused by the letter. Moreover, it made me think about what it means to have a satisfying legal career. I wasn't very inspired by my work as an associate, but I'm always intrigued by those who seem to like being a lawyer. To me, they're rather exotic.

Just a few days ago, I came across a New York Times profile of a lawyer who loves his work—maybe too much: Allen Beldock, a 92-year-old judge in New York, who works as a judicial hearing officer without pay. He started working in his current position after retiring from his judgeship more than 20 years ago. Even after budget cuts eliminated his $300-per-day position about a year ago, he keeps showing up at the office.

"If I were not a judge, I wouldn’t be doing anything,” he tells The New York Times. “What would I be doing if I were not a judge? What am I even qualified to do? I’ve been a judge for 44 years. My father was a butcher. I’m not trained to be a butcher.”  

Beldock tells the NYT that law trumps all other interests: “I don’t read books. I’ve done all my traveling. I’m not a big fan of museums. I’ve been to them.”

So maybe this is the ultimate test for how you truly feel about your job: Assuming that making a living is not an issue, would you still show up at work in the morning? My hunch is that most lawyers—even ones who profess to like their jobs—would dash out the door. I have a hard time believing that most folks would want to draft and redraft documents, attend meetings, negotiate deal points, and all the daily grind of lawyering without the economic kick. Yes, law can be intellectually satisfying to some, but, hey, is it poetry?

In the end, I'm not quite sure what to make of the good judge—is he blessed that he's found so much meaning in his profession, or cursed that he seems incapable of deriving pleasure from life's myriad distractions? Is he truly passionate about his job, or is this the only identity he has left?

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February 23, 2012

Real (Male) Leaders Are Pains

Now that we know what the he-man lawyer should wear at work, the next question is how he should behave. If his goal is to ascend to the top of the heap (and what manly lawyer would want anything less?), he better make sure he's not some Mr. Nice Guy.

Angry© Dmytro Konstantynov - Fotolia.comIf you're a faithful Careerist reader, you probably already know that, since I gave you that nugget of advice last year (see "The Meanie Advantage"). In case you need reminding, there are economic reasons not to be so nice: Men who rank high on the agreeableness scale make substantially less money than men who are less agreeable, according to a study by Timothy Judge, Beth Livingston, and Charlice Hurst. (Being disagreeable didn't affect women's pay, says the study, because being disagreeable conforms to expectations of masculine behavior.)

Art Markman, a University of Texas business professor, recently picked up that thread in the Harvard Business Review, writing that "agreeable men were rated least attractive as potential leaders."

So what's the recipe for achieving this persona of disagreeableness? Markman gives us a sketch of this ideal leader:

    - He's not afraid to ruffle feathers.

    - He's not afraid "to tell people things that they do not want to hear."

    - He put himself forward for promotions first, which means "putting yourself before others."

But then Markman throws in this monkey wrench: "This is not license to be a jerk at work. The data also suggest that people lacking agreeableness are more likely to lose their jobs than agreeable ones." So the trick is to be disagreeable without being abhorrent. The article didn't say this, but I think it's a matter of being strategically disagreeable—which is another way of saying you've got to be political.

In any case, how can you achieve this just-right blend of disagreeableness? Markman suggests that you take a personality test: "Find one, take it, and get an objective sense of how agreeable you are." Depending on where you fall on the agreeable/disagreeable scale, HBR suggests the following:

1. If your personality leans to the agreeable, practice being critical. "Go out of your way to find the flaws in plans that you hear. Put aside your personal relationships and think about what can go wrong. . . .  Try practicing giving negative feedback with a friend first, before doing it for real."

2. If you are more disagreeable, learn empathy. "If you think you're developing a reputation for being unsympathetic, practice giving bad news to a friend. Find out which parts of your delivery are causing people to bristle. A strong leader can guide without being mean."

I didn't mind the HBR article until this last bit of advice about being empathetic. Somehow, it seems to have been thrown in to make it more socially acceptable. Do we honestly expect a self-confident, self-aggrandizing alpha male to be touchy-feely? Why should he put on the brakes if he's on a winning track?

Isn't it really those who are nice and sweet who need behavior modification? So can we just be honest and stick with the naked ambition program?

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February 22, 2012

Time Inc. Lawyer Writes a Novel

Vivia Chen is on vacation. Guest blogger and Corporate Counsel editor in chief Anthony Paonita is filling in.

Lawyering, She Wrote

by Anthony Paonita

HelenWan# 00150_smallerBeing a New York-based legal magazine editor is a tough job. Coaching writers through stories over lunch, trips to conferences in nice locales, and a whirl of cocktail parties are enough to make a guy head for a Zen retreat. Okay, I lied about the parties.

Anyway, over after-work drinks at a midtown steakhouse I talked to Helen Wan, an associate general counsel at Time Inc. We did the New York thing of promising to have lunch sometime—and we actually did just a couple of weeks later, which has got to qualify as some kind of record.

Wan, who is the primary in-house attorney for Time’s lifestyle magazines (think Coastal Living and Real Simple) is a good lunch companion, with a lively sense of humor and wide-ranging interests. After putting in a couple of years at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, Wan moved to Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz, a boutique media and advertising firm. There she was able to focus on her passion, media and publishing, as a junior associate.

As if her day job weren’t enough, Wan has finished a novel that’s tentatively titled The Firm Outing, which will be published in May 2013 by St. Martin’s Press. Here’s an edited version of our conversation.

You have a pretty interesting job. What’s a typical day like?

 It runs the gamut. It can range from dealing with a writer agreement negotiation, or a meeting with clients. A photo rights issue might come up. Sometimes there’s a marketing initiative, and we have to vet those for compliance. We hold meetings with the editorial staff to talk about best practices.

You took a detour from law, didn’t you? 

I had left Paul Weiss after two years. It was around my seventh year practicing law. I was at the boutique firm for about five years. My husband got a job in Texas. I wanted to write a book, so I took a leave of absence. We thought we’d have to relocate.

What made you decide to write the book?

I always knew I wanted to write one, but being a junior associate, I didn’t have much time. It was always a dream of mine, so I thought, “hey, here’s my chance.” As it turned out, we never had to move. He found another job, at New York University. But my leave had already started, so I decided to write.

Was not having to go to work, and to sit and write a big adjustment?

 It was hard to not to be expected anywhere. We lawyers are used to getting up and getting dressed appropriately every day. You’ve got a phone ringing, a BlackBerry, assistants doing stuff for you. I found it a difficult transition. So I decided not to work at home. I actually started writing at the New York Public Library, the Rose reading room. I treated it like a job.

When you’re a practicing lawyer, you think what a dream it is to sit and write. But when you’re faced with that reality, it leaves a void, it’s such a solitary activity when you’re used to being around smart grownups.

I didn’t just write it during that leave. On and off, it took me nine to ten years. The story changed so much over time. I was writing it all the time in bits, on weekends. I’d save up my vacation and make them writing vacations. So when I took my leave, I was revising and polishing.

How are you getting the novel published?

 I have an agent, who I found the old-fashioned way—researching agents, going to networking events, pitching my work through an unsolicited query letter.  I signed up for a “How to Pitch to Agents” event, open to the public.  I had five minutes to describe my book idea to Josh Getzler, and left the first five pages with him.  He emailed me, asking to see the whole manuscript.  A few weeks later, he offered representation.   

What’s the book about?

 It’s a story of a young woman of color up for partner at a very, very, big, high prestige law firm. She encounters a glass ceiling and it’s about what she does about it. Really, it’s about an outsider basically learning the rules of survival in a world where its very, very, important to be on the inside.

 It sounds serious.

I tried to write this book with a light and comic touch, although—given the subject matter, diversity and meritocracies in today’s big American law firm, with everyone playing to win—of course it is also by turns serious.  But not overly so, I hope!  The book definitely ends on a positive note and has an overall optimistic outlook.

What made you write a novel on this subject?

There wasn’t any one incident, it was nothing that happened to me. When you move to New York City and become a young lawyer, you observe situations, clients, gatherings. You notice patterns of success and failure emerge. Especially as a young Asian lawyer, a lot of what we learned—keep your head down, for example—that’s the wrong advice. Young lawyers, not just women, get to their first job believing in the meritocracy and not understanding unwritten rules.

My editor asked what made you write this book? They always say write the book you’d like to find. There were no books about young minority lawyers having to learn the rules. No one’s giving you a decoder ring, and that’s what you need.

This is different from your personal experience?

I was lucky. Being a writer I was an observer, I learned just by looking around. It’s important to get to know people and not just be the automaton and not being visible. I was lucky to have a great group of friends from everywhere I worked. I never felt I was a victim of invidious discrimination.


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February 15, 2012

It's Just Dinner. Honest.

MadMen-©AMC Networks

What year is this? 1965? Judging by what I'm hearing about how uptight senior men are about their female subordinates, I'd say we're barely out of the Mad Men era.

As you know, one reason women are stagnating in law and other professions is that they lack a "sponsor"—a powerful (male) ally at the firm or company who will go to bat for them to advance their career.

You can probably think of dozens of reasons why women might lack a sponsor, but this one shocked me: Men are afraid of the sexual innuendo that might arise if they take an active interest in a woman's career—especially if they're seen together dining in a restaurant.

No kidding. As author Sylvia Ann Hewlett reminds me, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Mark Hurd "got shot down when he had dinner alone with a young female contractor." Though Hurd seemed to have taken more than a business interest in the young woman (she complained about his behavior), Hewlett says the takeaway is that it's just too risky to be closely associated with a younger woman.

In her study, which she describes in Harvard Business Review, Hewlett says 64 percent of senior men said that they would not sponsor a woman because it would entail spending one-on-one time together, which would likely stir rumors of an inappropriate relationship. "They didn’t care about the details of what went on in the HP situation, but the lesson was that they should never, ever have dinner alone with a female employee," says Hewlett.

But the problem is not just dinner after hours, but lunch too, says career coach Ellen Ostrow. In Attorney at Work, Ostrow writes:

One ambitious and intrepid young woman extended to the male head of her practice group what she assumed was an innocent invitation to lunch. She was immediately rebuffed with his assertion that he never joins women associates for lunch (or any other “social” activity). Why? Because his wife objects.

Ostrow adds that this practice group head "routinely goes to lunch with the male associates in the group but eschews all mingling with young women attorneys to avoid even a hint of impropriety."

It sounds to me that these guys (and maybe their wives) have a serious hang-up. But until the dinosaurs come home, what can you do? Ostrow suggests that the sponsor and the junior person grab a meal during the day, include others if it's a dinner, or first arrange a meal where significant others are invited to allay suspicion.

That's rather complicated, if you ask me. I mean, all you want is a simple, occasional dinner to discuss your career—not a conference with friends and family.

But Ostrow says the main point is that the junior person not give up. "Don’t take 'no' for an answer. . . . Empathize with the partner’s concerns but point out the uneven playing field this creates. Invite the partner to think with you about alternatives."

Frankly, I've always thought having an after-work drink was better for bonding than a formal dinner. So what about a round of cocktails? "Oh, I don't think they're ready for drinks," says Ostrow.

Photo: AMC's Mad Men

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Wilmer Puts a Woman on Top; Brits' List of Best U.S. Female Lawyers

Murley_Susan1. Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr gets new co-managing partners—and one of them is a she! It's a sad commentary that this should still be news, but it's pretty rare for an elite Am Law 100 firm to elect a woman to a top post.

Wilmer now joins a select (make that minuscule) club with the appointment of corporate partner Susan Murley (on right) as co-MP (her cohort is Robert Novick, a partner in the regulation and government affairs group). They succeed the Two Bills—William Lee and William Perlstein—who are returning to full-time practice.

Murley's appointment is a first for the firm, but she downplays its significance. She says it was a gradual transition, since "I had been on the management committee for eight years." She says she has no set agenda in mind beyond continuing what the Two Bills had already set in motion.

How will her election change things for women? "As long as women don't yet represent 50 percent of the partnership, I'll ask why that might be the case."

That sounds pretty mild, but we understand that no one wants a radical in management. In any case, we hope women flourish under Murley and Novick's reign.

2. Another week, another women's event—but this one came wrapped in a British flag. Catherine McGregor, the managing editor of Chambers & Partners, the U.K. organization that rates lawyers and firms, hosted the first Chambers U.S.A. Women in Law Awards. Held at the Plaza Hotel, it was a who's who of female legal luminaries—Mary Jo White, Candace Beinecke, Franci Blassberg, Faiza Saeed, to name just a few.

No real surprises as to the honorees list, but there was a bit of an Academy Awards-like suspense when the nominees' names were read just before the winner was announced in each of the practice area categories. (Click here for the list.)

Thankfully,  the winners' speeches were a lBritFlagot shorter than the ones in Tinsel Town. Many of the winners thanked the women at their firms for their success--which was a nice touch of sisterly unity. Cravath Swaine & Moore partner Sandra Goldstein gave a particularly memorable speech, singling out her 80-year-old mother, Gloria Goldstein, a retired New York State appellate judge, as her role model.

The big jolt of the evening was that a smallish (150 lawyers) firm in Atlanta—Morris, Manning & Martin—won in the best mentoring category, beating out the likes of Vinson & Elkins; Weil, Gotshal & Manges; and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. Manning's mentoring program stood out because it is highly individualized, says McGregor. "Each mentee has both a mentor and a sponsor—someone who's on the management committee—and that has a real impact in the long run."

But will Manning's program work in the big firms? Sure, says Manning's managing partner, Louise Wells. Keeping personality fit in mind is key, she says, "meaning let whomever is the best fit for someone be that person's mentor. It works for women and men. Meetings and formal tools are not always as successful as personal ones."

Big Wall Street firms—are you paying attention?


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February 14, 2012

Scalia—Work/Life Balance Activist?

Justice_Scalia_©Diego_RadzinschiMy goodness, is U.S. Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia getting in touch with his feminine side? It's hard to believe, but this free marketer and proponent of traditionalism is voicing support for what women have been clamoring for: work/life balance.

During a recent speech at the University of Chicago Law School's Federalist Society meeting, Scalia dispensed some career advice to students, along with his views about the Constitution, reports The Chicago Sun Times. Though his talk about the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment sounded fascinating—and I'm not being facetious here—my job is to tell you what Scalia says about legal careers.

Here's what he advise law students, according to the Sun Times:

“Try to find a practice that enables you to maintain a human existence  . . . time for your family, your church or synagogue, community . . . Boy Scouts, little league,” Scalia said, noting he started with Jones Day in Cleveland. “You should look for a place like that. I’m sure they’re still out there. Maybe you have to go to Cleveland.”

Hmm—that "Maybe you have to go to Cleveland" line sounds like a veiled threat. It might also strike the good folks of that midwestern city as a bit patronizing. But you know Scalia—he's a wicked jokester.

In any case, Scalia goes on to say that his son Eugene has found his own little Garden of Eden in the world of big firms—and he didn't even have to step foot in Ohio! Instead, Eugene Scalia has managed to stay right in the center of action—in the Washington, D.C., office of a California firm.

“My son Gene went to Gibson, Dunn," Scalia told the audience. "Any big firm has the basic ethos of its head office, and if the head office is in La La Land, it’s gonna be a little laid-back.”

Gibson, Dunn laid-back? Well, I'm not sure most lawyers would agree. (Yo, Gene, are you really not that busy?)

As for the La La Land culture of the firm? Well, I guess it's sort of a compliment. Or some kind of an ironic commentary on a very straitlaced firm.

Of course, what Scalia didn't say is that being a Supreme Court justice is probably the best job of all. You have a nice schedule, groupies fawning at your feet, lifetime job security, plus you know you'll get a front-page obituary in The New York Times. Not even Gibson, Dunn can give you all those goodies.

Related post: Bloomberg Judge Hostile to Work/Life Balance?

Hat tip: ABA Blog

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February 13, 2012

Seduction in the Office

OnTheMakeYou know the rules: Do not fool around in the office. It's risky. Unprofessional. Riddled with conflicts. And so Newtonian.

But dating in the office is rampant, says Career Builder. Almost 40 percent of workers say they've dated people from their office.  And almost one in five say they've dated their boss.

Let's be honest: If not at the office, where else can lawyers play the mating game? Long hours and heavy documents do not a social butterfly make. It's only natural that lawyers marry other lawyers, and beget unremarkable children with sky-high SAT scores.

Sadly, however, firms and companies—scared of potential conflicts and harassment claims—have all sorts of rules about romance in the office. One Am Law 100 firm requires its lawyers to "announce" that they are in a "relationship"—which I assume means a sexual one, though the HR head told me—somewhat coyly—that's never spelled out in the employee manual. And, of course,  almost all firms frown on (if not prohibit) relationships between partners and associates who work together.

Such romance-killers. Well, despair not, because I believe that true lust will prevail. Here's some advice to help you snag that object of desire at work while enhancing your career:

 1. Seduce the boss. Take it from Miss Piggy, swine extraordinaire and gal-about-town: Start at the top of the food chain. The rewards—personal and professional—are much bigger. Remember, though, the boss is a busy person. So get to the point. Look into his eyes and say: "Mentor me, mentor me. Right here and now!"

Too subtle? Then try murmuring some Latin: "Res ipsa loquitur!"

Boss still clueless? Well, maybe you'll just gain a mentor.

2. Sleep with the enemy. Want to get a lawyer really hot? Lock him up in a conference room with a vicious opposing counsel in a tight suit. Remember, lawyers love abuse—some are givers, some takers.

"She was brutal during the buyout negotiations," says a corporate lawyer about the adversary he eventually married. "It's as if she walked over me in her stilettos. My God, she was sexy!"

One warning: Be professional, and don't let on that you like the abuse. So give as good as you get. Be nasty in return. Call her moronic, demented, unethical. But remember, don't call her for a date until the deal is closed or the case is settled.

3. Hook up with the client. If it works out, your law firm will love you and you will advance straight to partnership. It's like marrying your son or daughter into a rich family. Think of the billing potential!

For corporate counsel, though, this could be a minefield. It might be hard to get objective legal advice from a lover. Also, how do you know your lawyer isn't running his meter during moments of passion? Those stolen kisses at $450 per hour can add up.

How to avoid sticker shock? Only date those with low billing rates--like junior associates. But the mature thing is to be up-front, and inspect his time sheets before the two of you turn in for the night.

4. Fish downstream—only if you must. Miss Piggy was never big on dating minions—but she made exceptions for hunks. Face it, the cute ones are not on the management committee.

But dating someone below your rank is tricky—especially if you supervise him. You don't want to end up with a sexual harassment claim if the relationship goes south. The solution? Get him to sign an agreement that the relationship is strictly voluntary. And do keep those forms handy for those spontaneous moments in the office.

You'll notice that one area that I did not address is dating someone from your same rank at the firm. I have only one word for that: boring! Where's the potential for abuse, the forbidden fruit? It's too easy, too cute—about as interesting as watching high schoolers at the Honor Society dance. 

Happy Valentine's Day!

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Do you have topics you'd like to discuss or tips to share? E-mail The Careerist's chief blogger, Vivia Chen, at VChen@alm.com.


About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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