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So, do you like to teach?


I really think you should become a prosecutor. (Madeline @ Blind Insight: please forgive me for this suggestion). :)

You won't use any writing skills as a prosecutor, that much is certain. But reading your blog, and especially your 3rd full paragraph where you say you love translating the law into plain English, gives me a strong impression that you would make a great trial lawyer. And who goes to trial on a more frequent basis than anyone else? Criminal lawyers.

I have many friends who are both prosecutors and criminal defense lawyers, but I am amazed at how every single prosecutor I know absolutely loves their job. The salary, they complain about now and then, but aside from that they just reek of personal fulfillment each time I meet them.

In my practice I also work closely with the City Attorney's Office of the city I live in. City attorneys in the criminal division prosecute misdemeanor crimes in my jurisdiction, which sounds awfully boring to me (or it would be after 12 months or so, anyway). But have you considered joining the civil side of a City Attorney's Office? That, too, sounds like constantly challenging, exciting, and intellectually stimulating work, and with no billables and great hours (and decent pay) to boot. In fact when I was looking to leave my last firm, I was just about to fill out a City Attorney application when my current firm gave me an offer and yanked me away from public service for the second time in a row. (My first employer got me at the last second as I was about to accept a state prosecutor offer).


It has been my experience that while deeper study of a field tends to make me better able to understand things, it makes me less able to explain them. I don't know if it's because things get that much more complicated (and in my field, they can get just as Byzantine as you might imagine) or if I find it hard to gloss over core principles in order to explain things.


As I read your words, I was thinking the exact thing that UCL was thinking -- maybe you should consider prosecution or criminal defense. I know you have said before that litigation doesn't appeal to you, but criminal law has a lot of the elements you are looking for.

When I was a prosecutor, it seemed that I spent a huge proportion of my time boiling down complexities for laypeople a) helping victims understand and cope with the system; b) helping witnesses to testify effectively; and c) (most exciting and challenging of all) geting a jury of laypeople to understand my case, and to see past whatever red herrings the defense attorneys might throw out. I loved that aspect of the job.

Like you, I also enjoy writing, research, and scholarship. While many prosecutors, especially at city and county levels, choose to do only the bare minimum of writing and research, I always spent a lot of time on my pleadings. Well crafted motions and memoranda pay off just as much in criminal cases as any other type of case. And my desire to engage in legal analysis and writing was always satisfied. The ideal position for you might include both criminal trial and appellate work, the latter being all about scholarship and writing. I will admit, however, you are not going to find the same degree of complexity in any aspect of cirminal law as you would in the tax code or the bankruptcy code.

Also, young prosecutors and public defenders in small rural states like yours and mine get assigned all sorts of important cases-- felonies right out of the starting gate, and sexual assaults and violent crimes not long after (with plenty of more mundane cases like DWIs, or convenience store break-ins mixed in too).

You could really make a difference. The criminal justice sytem desperately needs thoughtful and fair people like you to make decisions about sentencing and decisions about when to prosecute and when not. (Too often, in my view, prosecutors develop a "Lock 'em up and throw away the key" mentality.)

In any event, you will surely be a valuable asset wherever you choose to direct your talents!

Prof. Bainbridge

Hey buddy. If you ever want to have a candid chat about getting into law teaching, call me. Steve

Bill Altreuter

One of the real pleasures of our glamor profession is that you never stop climbing the hill-- there is no plateau, if you don't want there to be. I think in a lot of jobs it is easy to peak. One can coast in law, after a point, but if that is not the sort of person you are (and you obviously aren't) than you just keep growing.

I have said for years that the reason I love my practice is that it lets me do everything I want to do: I travel, I lecture, I write, I go to court. And even though it is sometime a struggle, and even though it is always hard work, it is all rewarding, and most of it is fun. How do you beat a job like that?

Good luck, and have fun. I'm looking forward to reading about your next move.

David Rassin

It's so very obvious that you want to be a teacher...

Best of luck.


Well, I'd hate to see you be a prosecutor, but then again, it'd mean one more good, ethical, smart prosecutor on the other side of the table. As I've told you off-site, I think appellate practice (and not necessarily criminal appeals) offers much of what you seek. The best appellate writing is story-telling, and better still if it's in plain language. Appellate work also eliminates much of what I think you dislike about litigation, and at least on the criminal side involves much interaction with clients and other people who need complicated, scary legal things explained to them straight.

But I think you'd be a wonderful teacher, or law professor, and law-proffing would certainly allow(nay, force) you to do lots and lots of writing and people-interacting and concept-distilling.

Ultimately, though, I'm just looking forward to seeing where this move takes you, both in the short term and the long.

Carolyn Elefant

I don't believe that there's currently a job out there that will accomodate your strengths of people skills, intellectual curiosity and desire to write. In truly "intellectual" practices like appellate law or teaching, the "people" component, i.e., the real impact of the law and legal decisions on individuals is given short shrift. And in the many of the so-called "people" type practices where you have a chance to explain the law and interact - such as criminal defense, family law, etc...many clients don't want to know the nitty-gritty details of how things work - or you may be too pressed for time to be able to explain things anyway.

Now just because your ideal isn't out there, doesn't mean it doesn't exist - you just need to create it. It may come about through a combination of positions - perhaps a part time, counsel position at a firm handling bankruptcy and teaching at a lawschool and working at a clinic there the other part of the time. Perhaps it's on-call in house counsel part of the time and journalism part of the time, starting off with reporting on the courts (since law would be the entre) and transitioning into more general reporting and news writing, culminating in a book. Maybe you can take your passion for sailing and parlay it into some kind of legal job. In any event, if I had to pick only one profession that would suit you from reading the blog, I'd say it would be some kind of inhouse gig where you could advise on the practicalities on law to corporate officers and satisfy your intellectual jollies by discoursing on the intracacies of cases and strategy with outside counsel.

Finally, though I'm a huge fan of solo practice, obviously, I do not suggest solo practice for you now because I don't think it suits you - I think you are a team player (or leader) and besides you're still thriving on learning from others.

Still, consider yourself lucky in that you already know what you're good at and you have a passion for a couple of things. Some of us are still searching (and probably will always be) for what our calling is.

David Giacalone

No career advice from me, Sherry. I just want to say how heart-warming it is to see that so many people care about you -- thanks to this new-fangled technology that lets you use old-fashioned story-telling and autobiography to make friends and nurture friendships from miles away.

Okay, a quick career thought: Mad has a great point about appellate work. It does offer much of what you seek in the profession (including forcing/allowing you to become and instant expert in an infinite number of fields -- with attendant Sherry-worry to keep you psyched). Teaching, on the other hand, can be very frustrating in many ways.

You seem really interested in tax. Have you considered an LLM in tax law?

Just a few thoughts. First, bankruptcy is a wonderful specialty. For those who are creative and not afraid to take risks, representing debtors in Chapter 11 cases is where the action is. That work is usually done by solo or small firm practitioners, an arrangement that would seem to suit you. Second, your writing reminds me very much of that of Bill Bryson. If you have not already done so, read his "A Walk in the Woods." He has made a career of traveling around, meeting new people, having adventures and writing about them --- like you, he turns the mundane into an interesting story with an introspective, often wry, outlook on life. Last, don't leave Maine. All you'll ever need is right there, even if it seems elusive at times.(See, The Wizard of Oz).

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