I read with interest, a pair of posts by Philadelphia law blogger Jordan Rushie and Scott Greenfield about the importance of in-person networking. I don’t disagree with them. For better or for worse, Scott’s and Jordan’s way is how business still gets done in most of the legal profession. By starting at the low end of the totem pole in an organization, cheerfully taking on meaningless grunt work. By sitting through boring meetings where people spend more time deciding whether a motion is required to pursue a particular action than to discuss the action itself. By accepting as gospel the response to every suggestion, “but that’s how it’s always been done…”
Still, even though the world as described by Scott and Jordan and their adoring commenters is how things are today, I’m troubled. Partly because I’m impatient and opinionated and don’t play well with others – and partly because as a parent, specifically a mom my time is limited. The former issue is curable (must be if Scott and Jordan and Brian Tannebaum have succeeded through personal networking – no offense, guys!) but the latter, not so much – especially for moms.
When I joined committees as a young lawyer, I found that because I’m a hard worker, I could circumvent the wall of conformity or leapfrog over several layers of bureaucracy by just taking charge of a project and completing it (since most folks never followed through – must be how it’s always been done). That worked fine, and I found myself advancing up the ranks. [click to continue…]
Avid readers may recall that two years ago, MyShingle and I received an “invite” to the defendants’ table in Rakofsky v. the Internet. Roughly two years later, a decision is finally in. Defendants prevailed; you can read others’ legal analysis here ,here and here. Having spent two years reading through reams of pleadings, I see no reason to spill any more ink on the legal question of whether my blog posts were defamatory. They weren’t. The case is over, my side won – and that’s enough. Or is it?
No – it’s not. Because what I’ve learned in my time as a defendant on the other side of the pleading is that it’s not just enough for lawyers to handle a case competently enough for the win. If that’s all that my lawyers, Marc Randazza and Eric Turkewitz had done for me (and my co-defendants) in this case, I’d feel underwhelmed. Yes, I’d think to myself – my lawyers won the case but so what? Couldn’t dozens of other lawyers have done the same thing? Soon, I’d start second-guessing their work (couldn’t they have done more to make it go away sooner?) and ultimately, what they charged would overshadow the result they delivered.
To be clear, that’s not what happened. Not only did Marc and Eric win the case, they served us well, with exceptional briefs, procedural finesse (a skill not to be underestimated) and near-instantaneous responsiveness. Even so, this is the level of performance that clients should expect of their lawyers. That Marc and Eric delivered so well was appreciated of course (particularly because it couldn’t have been a picnic for them to represent 15 opinionated and strong-willed attorneys). But their performance didn’t surprise me because that’s the reason I hired them.
What did surprise me however was that as a client I might feel proud of my lawyers — not just because of how they handled themselves within my case, but also, their reputation outside of it. Throughout case, whenever I saw Marc on T.V. defending Rush Limbaugh’s First Amendment rights (even though he detests the guy) or standing up for the Steubenville blogger, I’d think – “Wow – that’s my lawyer.” When I saw Eric’s picture on the side of a New York bus, I bragged to all of my New York attorney friends – “Hey did you see the New York marathon ads on the buses? That guy in the ad is my lawyer – and a damn good one too!” [click to continue…]
In August 2003, roughly nine months into blogging, I crossed the line between professional and personal when I posted this picture of my daughters and me at MyShingle. I recall actually fretting over whether to put the picture up or not – because even though the legal blogosphere back then was small and full of camaraderie, somehow, it seemed unprofessional or at least, off-topic (and therefore, against the “rules” of blogging) to talk about my daughters. A decade later, my reservation seems so silly in a world where we routinely share with professional colleagues photos of kids and pets and what we cooked for dinner on Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest. But back then, it was different.
For better or worse, I didn’t follow conventional wisdom. Though I hardly converted my blog into a “mommy blog” (which by the way, I don’t consider a pejorative term), I used my forum to mark the passage of time as my daughters grew older and to publicly struggle with balance while dealing with stereotypes.
Ten years later, I’m emerging on the other side of child-rearing. Debate on work-life balance or Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In no longer resonate with me because those issues aren’t mine anymore. But guess what – they’re not Sheryl Sandberg’s or Laurel Bellow’s either: choices about children and career belong to you.
What that means is this: just because an ABA honcho without a modicum of creative thinking can’t figure out how women (or men) might re-enter the law after taking five years off to raise kids doesn’t mean that the advice applies to you. Just because one of the most successful women in the tech industry tells you to lean in to your career and climb the corporate ladder by making contacts within an organization instead of building something new doesn’t mean that approach will make you happy or work for your family.
Moreover, this kind of advice — and any advice, really, falls short, because it presumes a static world where nothing changes. Because the world has changed – giving us access to the web and social media and contacts that were never available before that make work life balance (for want of a better word) feasible. But even more, parenthood changes us too – or at least, it should. Motherhood has changed me profoundly — as I realize that luck and genes play as important a role in our children’s success as parents do, while the things you thought would make you proud of your kids (honors! awards! photo in the paper!) take a backseat to the way your heart swells when you watch your child refuse to give up in a class that’s a struggle or perform some random act of kindness. And that no matter how wise you think you are, your kids will often tune you out – and things will work out anyway.
So in honor of my daughters (who tune me out), why not do the same? Don’t listen to me, don’t listen to Sheryl or Laurel, listen to yourself. Don’t lean in to job and career like everyone else says. Don’t look over at what everyone else is doing and follow their lead, don’t lash out and feel compelled to justify your path over others. Instead, tune out — ask yourself what you want and what matters — then plug in your ear pods and follow your internal voice, wherever it might lead.
Yesterday, federal judge Otis Wright slammed Prenda, a rogue “porno trolling” quasi-law firm that figured out a formula to get rich in the Internet Age. As Judge Wright uncovered , Prenda bought copyright interests in porn movies, placed them in shell corporations to appear as if they were owned by clients (rather than Prenda lawyers) – then brought boilerplate copyright infringement actions against individuals suspected of having downloaded the porn and extorted hush money to make the cases go away. Finding that Prenda had exploited “antiquated copyright laws, paralyzing social stigma and unaffordable [legal defense] costs” to “plunder the citizenry,” Judge Wright came down hard, awarding double attorneys fees and referring the attorneys to ethics committees, the U.S. Attorney and the IRS for investigation. (For detailed coverage, See Popehat).
Even though Judge Wright pulled the trigger on Prenda, it took solo – in this particular case Manhattan Beach, California based Morgan Pietz to make the Judge angry enough to pick up the gun. In a lengthy affidavit, Pietz, aggregating information on Prenda’s activities in other courts, systematically connected the dots to paint a picture Prenda’s unlawful acts, culminating in its theft of an innocent third-party’s (a property caretaker for one of Prenda’s principals) identity to use front for one of its shell corporations. Though solo, Pietz didn’t defeat Prenda all on his own; a small army of solo and small firms mobilized nationwide to defend Prenda’s (and other trolls’) victims. Presumably, these firms also collaborated and shared documents that eventually exposed the Prenda and lead to its demise.
As with the mortgage foreclosure fiasco (a fraud that resulted in thousands of evictions based on robo-signed documents) the Prenda travesty shows why, more than ever, we need solo. [click to continue…]