Tag Archives: biglaw

Surviving the Asteroid Strike.

An enormous asteroid struck my firm today, in the form of a mass layoff.  A little over 5% of lawyers in the U.S. offices, and the same proportion in Chicago.  There were staff layoffs, too; not sure how many staff — call it 20 in Chicago who were given their walking papers.  All departments were affected.  The announcement emphasized that it was purely an economic decision; in better times, we’d have kept these people.

I survived, and still have a job to go back to in the morning, but I admit to being pretty shaken up.  I found out about the impending layoffs last night, and was reasonably confident that I wouldn’t be included, but not totally confident.  I kept waiting for the knock on the door, or the phone call from our department head, or an email, telling me to pack my stuff and go.

I exported my contacts to a file and emailed them to my personal email account, but there wasn’t all that much else for me to do.  I spent most of the day in my office with the door closed, because every time I went out in the hall the people I saw had the same weird expression on their faces that I was sure was on mine.

My secretary was fired.  I think I know why she was on the list, and it pisses me off since the only person affected by this issue was me, and I didn’t care, but nobody asked my opinion.  She was good at her job, and I hope she finds another one soon.

The survivors are shell-shocked.  This happens less often in large law firms than other businesses — I’ve been in practice for 14 years, and have never experienced a mass layoff; even during the 2000-2002 tech wreck, my old firm fired people one by one over time, and only in particular practice areas.  But there has been a steady drumbeat of layoff stories on the biglaw blogs for a couple of months now; The Firm held out as long as it could, but you can’t fight this economy.

After an asteroid strike, the dust and debris kicked up by the impact obscures the sky, sometimes for months, blocking the sun and creating an artificial winter.  Maybe that’s why this winter has been so brutal, from all of the asteroids falling to earth.


Dear God, Has It Been 10 Days Since I Posted?

Apparently, it has. I’d like to tell you it’s because I’ve been working on something really special for my 100th post, which is what my next post will be. I’d like to tell you that, but it would be a big, fat lie. In truth, I’ve just been working. Not on my novel, not on a short story, just on the stuff that pays the bills: representing clients (99% of my work time) and trying to bring in new ones (1% — anybody see a flaw in the way that breaks down?). I’ve been very, very busy, with a fair amount of traveling, and more to come next week.

Tomorrow is Unfocused Girl’s very, very belated birthday party. How belated, you ask? Here’s a hint: she’s seven, and this will be her first birthday party without snow on the ground.

This year, her party’s theme will be Warriors, and it will be her first slumber party, so I expect that by this time tomorrow night, our backyard will be taken over by a pack of girls ages 7 to 10 in their pajamas, running around in the dark and pretending to be a tribe of feral cats. And one four year old boy pretending to be Superman. This is going to be interesting.

Meet the Larssons has ground to a halt these last couple of weeks. The few people I’ve told I’m working on a novel have all asked me “Where do you find the time?” For the last couple of months, it’s gotten much harder, and the last couple of weeks, it’s been impossible.


Sorry about that – the kids were in the tub, and it was time to get them out. For the last half hour, Unfocused Girl has been singing “Snape, Snape, Severus Snape” from Potter Puppet Pals: The Mysterious Ticking Sound, and now my head needs to explode. The Potter Puppet Pals are funny, funny stuff, but I’m tired enough that my tolerance for infinite replay is something less than what it should be.

Anyway, I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to get back to the novel. What I need are a few days when I can spend an hour or more a day working on it in isolation. I had six days off planned starting next Tuesday, but an unavoidable business trip has popped up at the beginning of it, so instead I’ll get Mrs. Unfocused and the kids most of the way to my mother’s, then go on to my meetings; when they’re over, I’ll catch up with the wife and kids and we’ll head to the beach for a couple of days. Maybe I can get some writing in then.

It’s a Biglaw career I’ve got here, and sometimes (much of the time) it can be really hard to hang onto any semblance of a personal life. I know that’s true of other jobs, but this is the one I’ve got and the one I know best. I know I just need to get my butt in my seat in front of the MacBook on a regular basis, but sometimes the writing has to get back burnered. I’ve been beating myself up for not writing when what I really need to do is stop kvetching and find 15 minutes even on a bad day and just write.

Finally, I want to mention the passing today of a great American journalist, Tim Russert. Since we’ve had kids, Meet the Press has been a rare treat, but we used to watch it every Sunday morning, and we still enjoyed his commentary during MSNBC’s election coverage. Probably my most vivid memory of the 2000 election is of finally dropping off at 1 or 2 in the morning with the TV on, and waking up at 6 to find Russert still on air, in need of a shave and a clean shirt, with his white board and his red and blue markers trying to make sense of what the hell had just happened. He knew what he was talking about, he wasn’t one of the shouters, and I’ll miss his even-tempered commentary on this election.

Up next: Post #100! I can just smell the excitement. Or my shoes.

Random Thursday Update

It’s been heating up at The Firm lately, which is one of the reasons I haven’t been posting as frequently. People get sued, people need suing (“Why’d you do it?” “He needed suin’.”), one of the senior partners gets hired, and eventually I get a phone call and my blogging dries up for a bit. This is just a quick update to kickstart my blogging muscles.

I’ve also been trying to make some progress on Meet the Larssons, which I put aside a few weeks ago in the push to finish the first draft of “Test Tube Beneficiary” and then get through the revisions. I’m back into it now, though, and I think it’s coming along. I’m going to have to change the name of the family at the center of the book though — I only noticed it recently, but one character, Astrid Larsson, has the same name as one of the main characters in S.M. Stirling’s Emberverse Trilogy. There’s no similarity between MTL and Mr. Stirling’s books, but it’s an easy enough change for me to make (hit REPLACE ALL and we’re done!). As a working title, though, I think I’ll leave it as Meet the Larssons, at least for now. It’s past 65,000 words, and I think I’m on track to meet my goal of finishing the first draft by the end of June. That will depend on how crazy things get at the office.

As for TTB, after three passes through it (two hand markups on paper, then one more set of revisions as I typed in the first two), I managed to cut a whopping 110 words, net — I cut a lot more than that, and but I added enough that it was effectively a wash. Between Passover and other commitments, I haven’t been able to get it into final shape to submit, but I expect to get that done in the next week or two. I accomplished Step One, buy more printer paper, on Monday

That’s enough for now. My blogging muscles are all wobbly. I’ll try to think of something interesting to say for tomorrow.

Search Engine Fun

Apparently, my January 25 post is the number one search result on the Google for why i hate biglaw, which I think is very cool, even though I don’t hate biglaw myself and don’t say in the post that I do.

Update: Fame is fleeting.  As of 5:07pm Central, someone else has claimed the number one spot, and I have been demoted to number 2. Bummer.

Still working the day job

The day (and night) job has been interfering a little with my writing and blogging over the last few days. That’s not unexpected — biglaw is a demanding mistress (and she beats me, too). I assume smalllaw is equally demanding, in its own way, but I’ve never worked on that side of the street, so I have no idea.

Last night I had a networking event to go to and got home too late to write. The night before, I was cruising along on the novel when I made the mistake of checking my Blackberry, and saw 20 new messages, all received after 8pm, on one of my cases where something had happened. The next day, it turned out to be insignificant, but it killed my concentration for the evening.

So I’m still working the day job, which is just as well since my total earned income from writing is zero, at least since college (I had a paid, part-time job writing news briefs and the local events calendar for a newspaper in high school, and I may have gotten a small stipend as an editor at the college newspaper; if so, it was small enough that I don’t remember it). The day job, as day jobs do, has its own demands, and that’s the way it should be; it’s why they pay me. That’s the gig, and it’s not a bad one. It just interferes with the writing sometimes.

Would I quit the day job even if Meet the Larssons sold a gazillion copies and was made into a summer blockbuster movie starring Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson? The Mrs. thinks I wouldn’t, or that I’d go bananas if I did. I’m not so sure, but I’d like to find out, if anyone wants to test me.

Weekend Assignment #198: On Winter

Waiting until the last minute to do my homework — it’s just like high school. Or college. Or law school. Or elementary school, for that matter. The new Weekend Assignment is up at Outpost Mavarin. Here it is:

Weekend Assignment #198: What is your favorite thing about winter? Whether you love this time of year, hate it or merely endure it, you should be able to find something good to say about the season. What is it?

Before we had children, every winter the Mrs. and I used to drive up to Door County right after Christmas and stay until New Year’s Day or January 2. (For those of you not familiar with the Midwest, Door County, Wisconsin is the northern tip of the peninsula that divides Green Bay from Lake Michigan, and is a summer resort area for families from Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, and as far as the Twin Cities.) Most of the shops and many of the restaurants are open for that week — everything closes after January 2 until May — but it is never crowded, except for breakfast at Al Johnson’s in Sister Bay.

We went snowshoeing in the state park, antique shopping, watched old movies at night. One year, we were supposed to leave on New Year’s Day so I could be at the office on January 2, but on New Year’s Eve, it started to snow. When we woke up on New Year’s morning, it was still snowing. We tramped into the main building at Eagle Harbor Inn (where we always stayed) for breakfast, and heard that the road from Green Bay to Milwaukee had been closed by the state police, and would not reopen for several hours after the snow stopped, at the earliest. We were free! This was around 1998 or 1999 — I had no Blackberry or laptop, so I had to just leave voicemails for a few people, and then I was completely off the hook. There was no problem with our staying an extra night in our room, we drove into Egg Harbor to see the wonderful New Year’s Day parade (including the town’s little yellow fire engine) and eat dollar brats grilled up by members of one of the local service clubs as a fundraiser. I don’t remember what we did that evening, but I’m sure we enjoyed every minute of it. It was the best snow day I had had since the winter of 1978/79, when New York (where I grew up) had a massive blizzard and the snow plow broke down in the middle of our street, leaving us with an eight-foot high wall of snow, easily four to six feet thick, crossing the entire street, and all of the kids on the block stayed home and had the mother of all snowball battles, using the wall of snow as our barrier, our fort, our mountain, or our high ground for firing down at the others.

Now I watch my kids when they have a snow day; they’ve only had one or two since they started school (they’re young yet), but I remember my daughter jumping up and down the first time she learned that when there is enough snow, they cancel school and you get to play outside.

That’s what I love about winter: the possibility of snow days. No other season offers anything comparable, the possibility that the weather will be so bad that school is canceled, but so good that you can spend all day playing outside (with occasional breaks for hot cocoa and marshmallows).

Extra credit: What do you hate most about winter?

This is harder than the main assignment (which I suppose is why it’s extra credit). My first thought was: travel. I fly often enough for business, and flying in winter is really miserable because of the weather delays. I’m not going to use that as my answer, though, because these days flying is a miserable experience in all seasons, so there is no reason to single out winter.

The winner is: cabin fever. I get it as bad as the kids do. It’s hard to get up to run outside in the dark. It’s even harder when you know that out there in the dark, it is really, really cold. By spring, I am leaping at the chance to run outside in 40 degree weather, and the kids are begging to spend as much time as possible in the mud pit that is our backyard in April. By the end of February, we are all a few cards short of a deck. What I hate most about winter: cabin fever.