Friday, July 19, 2013

Small Steps

This week, I noticed a post of Facebook (or maybe a pinned quote on Pinterest?) about action as the enemy of anxiety.  That makes sense to me.  Collecting savings in an emergency account and paying down my student loans has eased my anxiety about job prospects somewhat.  So I spent a little time wondering if there was any other action I could take that would soften the blow if my job disappears in the next few months.

How about finishing my CLE requirements?  I'm part of the reporting group that has to submit proof of completion of CLE at the end of the year.  Thanks to my firm's requirement that first- through third-year associates attend all CLE lunches related to their practice area, I had easily fulfilled the requirement for general hours, but still needed to complete six hours of ethics, bias and substance abuse CLE.  On a particularly slow day this week, I made the most of the firm's ample, free online CLE materials and knocked out this requirement.

As Facebook (or Pinterest) promised, taking action provided some relief!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


There's getting to be a lot of talk about layoffs and a lot of talk about what a slow year it's been in M&A... and I'm worried.*  I'm worried because I think my class year, practice area and profile as an associate who is working away from her home office puts me at risk.

I'm not sure what else I can do at this point.  I've said yes to every assignment (including a trans-Pacific move), completed a secondment, brought in a client and am well-liked socially; but I don't think my work product would be considered exceptional, i.e., I'm not drafting on a regular basis, I don't have deep knowledge of any area except diligence and disclosure schedules, and my hours aren't stellar when measured against expectations (although they are in line with what my peers' have been billing).  Perhaps more troubling, nobody has my back.  (I attribute this mostly to the way the firm has moved me around, but (i) I work mostly for senior associates and rarely directly with partners and (ii) I have to admit that self-promotion is not my strong suit.)  Despite that I don't have negative feedback on my record, I know that that can change in an instant, or not matter at all, when it's time to let folks go.

It's best to be prepared.  If I were to be laid off, I project it would happen some time in October, when I'm slated to return to my home office and year-end reviews will take place.  Between now and then, I estimate I will accumulate a $18k cash surplus after ordinary bills, retirement contributions,  emergency savings, and minimum student loan payments.  It's been my practice while abroad to send all of my cash surplus to the Department of Education.  This has resulted in a $60k reduction of my student loan principle.  I think, between now and October, the cash surplus should be sent to my emergency fund instead.  I will also need to (i) think carefully about housing arrangements when I return to the US; (ii) complete my remaining CLE hours while I have access to the firm's free CLE training; (iii) update my resume and deal sheet; (iv) keep up to date with job openings, legal or otherwise; and (v) give some thought to developing a side gig.

Just in case.

Someone has suggested to me that being laid off would be a blessing in disguise.  The past few years have been mostly unhappy ones and, with my MBA and experience working in Asia, other possibilities are open to me.  There is truth in that.  But, at the moment, given my remaining loan balance and my interest in validating my JD, I think it would be best to put in some more time.  (By validating my JD, I mean getting enough practical experience and accruing enough skill to be perceived as an attorney and not someone who went to law school just for fun.)

Will the day ever come when I feel more stable in my job?  When will I get to worry about planning a wedding or buying a house, instead of obsessing over the firm?  I need to think about ways to move beyond this junior, very fungible stage of my career.

*To be clear, this isn't a revelation of how my firm is doing.  This is a reflection of what I'm reading about law firm layoffs generally and some E&Y analysis I just read about the M&A market.

Sunday, July 7, 2013


We'd been hearing Saturday would be a terribly hot day in Tokyo.  With this in my mind, when my alarm went off Saturday morning and my Blackberry had no new work-related messages, I pulled the black-out curtains and slept a little longer.  I woke up feeling refreshed and took care of some chores around the apartment.  When the weather cooled off in the early evening, I set off to Omotesando for a walk.

I like Omotesando for its wide sidewalks and tree-lined main street.  It was a warm, humid night, but you could hear the breeze blowing through the leaves all along the street.  There's a lot of people watching in Omotesando because of all the shopping--you can find the Louis Vuitton, Prada, Tod's and Dior flagships here.  I was admiring the Ralph Lauren building when I saw what looked like an interesting back alley with smaller shops.  I decided to do some exploring and found Kate Spade Saturday's flagship location.

Apparently, Japan is Kate Spade's largest market outside the US.  I definitely believe it based on the amount of Kate Spade I see walking the streets in central Tokyo, but also because my last eight months in Japan have shown me how local tastes align with the brand's aesthetics.  Kate Spade has a certain whimsy that leans towards kawaii and the brands clothes are a little conservative, minimalist and retro, with occasional, cutesy embellishments.  That's so Japan!

I didn't go inside because I arrived just as they were closing up shop.  While I took the above picture, a couple of Japanese women stood behind me trying to figure out how or if this store is different from the regular Kate Spade.  Saturday is meant to be a little more casual (both in terms of style and price point) and aimed at a younger consumer.

I wandered aimlessly for a while before heading back to the apartment and watching a movie I'd downloaded from iTunes.  It's great to have a work-free day like this every once and again.  14 weeks to go!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


Lately, I've been thinking about what inspires, motivates and energizes me.  Here's a little something I think is awesome and exciting.

The Kickstarter campaign was a success and I hear that GoldieBlox is available online and at Toys r' Us.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Beach City

There are a lot of posts on this blog bemoaning the very slow start I had as a corporate associate of my firm's office in "Beach City".  It was a disappointment because I was truly interested in doing corporate work in the biotech and life sciences space, an area where our firm is strong in general, but where Beach City provided a small office opportunity to be involved in that practice.  And while the slow down in Beach City made perfect sense in light of the changes in the economy (at a macro and micro level), it was a significant shift that lots of big law management folks didn't seem to have anticipated.

To this day, I keep a close eye on the market in Beach City because it's a beautiful place to live with a really strong public high school located close to the office where I once worked.  I've harbored an interest in returning to Beach City (which would probably require a move to another firm), but have hesitated because, among other things, I've thought that Beach City, like Orange County, just isn't big enough to support the participation of a large number of big law players and the open junior corporate positions have been at firms that weren't strong competitors in the market.

Last week, some news broke that reinforced my assessment of the situation.  What really bummed me out is that the office in question had recruited pretty hard for a junior corporate associate as recently as nine months ago.  I (and every other junior corporate associate in the vicinity, I'm sure) received a lot of calls from recruiters for this position over the course of nearly a year.  For the sake of all involved, I hope they never hired for that position because it would be a nightmare to have just lateraled over before the office was shuttered.