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Lawyers for Public Office + More News

Vivia Chen

November 17, 2017

Jenny Durkin, James Stewart and Justin Fairfax.


My weekly look at the news in your world:

1. You—yes, you—should run for office. Reinventing yourself after a lifetime of law practice is a sizzling hot topic these days. How hot? Well, I moderated a panel on encore careers at the New York City bar recently—and it was standing room only. What's more,  current and former BigLaw partners were in attendance. Who knew that so many "mature" lawyers are still hungry for a second or third act?

We discussed all types of options at the panel, like serving on boards or working for nonprofit, but we totally missed this one: Running for public office. 

That's what a couple of lawyers (one from Venable and the other from Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan) did in this latest election cycle. Even better they won! 

Reports The National Law Journal: "Litigation counsel Justin Fairfax was elected lieutenant governor of Virginia—setting him up to serve alongside fellow Democrat Ralph Northam, who won Virginia’s gubernatorial race. And another Big Law attorney, Quinn Emanuel’s Jenny Durkan, won her race to become Seattle’s next mayor."

NLJ also reports there might be more BigLaw politicians in the pipeline, including Venable's former chair James Shea, who hopes to become the next Democratic nominee for governor for governor of Maryland. 

Both Fairfax and Durkan are injecting diversity into public office. Fairfax "became the first African-American to be elected to a statewide office in Virginia since 1989—the year L. Douglas Wilder was elected governor." And Durkan is a lesbian. A former U.S. attorney for the Western District of Washington, she was the first openly gay top federal prosecutor.
I think it's perfectly logical for BigLaw types to get into politics: They've got the skills, the smarts and a high tolerance for boring details that should come in handy in the governing process. Plus, if you've been a BigLaw partner, you probably have some savings under your belt to take the pay cut that public life requires. I say, go for it!

2. Too bad you missed your best shot at getting into Harvard Law School. I hate to say I told you so, but didn't I suggest that you apply to your dream law school when the going was good?

It might seem like ancient history now, but law, especially BigLaw, had a stinky reputation in the aftermath of the recession. (Anyone remember those layoffs when associates got tossed like broken toys after Christmas?) For about five years or so, starting in 2010, application rates to law schools were on a steady decline.

Well, if you didn't apply back in the day, you've missed your chance at squeezing into a top (or better) law school. According to TaxProfBlog, LSAT takers rose 10.7 percent in September/October—and that's on top of a 19.8 percent  increase in June. That increase was "the largest since 2009-10, when LSAT-test takers hit an all-time high (171,514)."

Is this just a momentary bump? Nope. Registrations for the December LSATs are up 19.8 percent. TaxProf says: "We are headed for a third consecutive year of increases in LSAT test-takers (and the largest yearly increase, dwarfing 2015-16's 4.1 percent and 2016-17's 3.3 percent), which followed five consecutive years of declines."

So here's my advice to you: Go against the herd. Unless you're dead set on being a lawyer and are sure you can get into a "decent" law school (in my opinion, that would be top 50 ranked schools), you might consider something else.  Perhaps podiatry school? (People will always have feet problems.)

3. Move over, Gloria Allred. Robbie is here. I don't know if this is the kind of client she could have or would have taken on at Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison, but Roberta Kaplan is now representing a woman who's been sued for defamation by filmmaker Brett Ratner after she accused him of rape. 

Kaplan, of course, is famous for arguing the Edie Windsor case before the Supreme Court in 2013 that recognized gay marriage. Before she started her own firm this year, Kaplan was a litigation partner at Paul Weiss.

Kaplan is representing Melanie Kohler, an owner of a scuba shop in Hawaii, who accused Ratner of raping her 12 years ago on Facebook. The New York Times reports that Ratner slapped her with a defamation lawsuit, "just hours after the Los Angeles Times published a story with allegations from six women — including actresses Olivia Munn and Natasha Henstridge — accusing Ratner of sexual misconduct and harassment."

The Times article suggests that Kohler was intimidated by Ratner's lawyer Martin Singer into removing her Facebook post. Singer denies the charge.

In any case, Kohler shouldn't be scared now that she's got Kaplan on her team. I mean, Kaplan is a big gun.

4. My next appearance:

Women in the Workplace - What's Holding Us Back?

The Cornell Club of New York
November 30, 2017 – 8:00 – 9:30 a.m.

(Sponsored by The New York Women's Bar Association Foundation, Inc.)



[email protected]


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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: [email protected]

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