What’s next?*

March 31, 2011 at 9:23 am | Posted in law school, the firm, the media | 10 Comments
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*Credit: Aaron Sorkin

The Short Story

My new job: I will be practicing media, entertainment, and general intellectual property law at a boutique Boston firm. The firm is affiliated with a literary agency, and I will become an agent at the agency as well. I have worked out a loose arrangement under which I’ll be practicing law 50% of the time (about 20 hours a week — I just love that we are talking about a 40- and not 60-hour work week here!), and I will devote the rest of my time to the agency, how ever much or little that is. At first, I expect to be in the office every day as I learn both a new area of the law and a totally new profession (agent), but ultimately I expect the job to be very flexible, especially on the agency side. In the end, being an agent is commission-based, so however much I time I put into it, I get out of it.

The Short-Long Story

At the end of my third year of law school — after I had already accepted a position in the tax department at my former, BigLaw firm — my good friend Margo told me about a partner at her firm who also ran a boutique literary agency out of the firm. Margo is an intellectual property lawyer (she is a genius and has a PhD in immunology and practices a type of law I cannot even wrap my head around), and her firm was known for its overall IP practice. “I don’t really understand the arrangement,” she told me, “but it sounds right up your alley. You should meet him.” Margo then wrote an introductory email for me, and I scheduled an informational interview. A literary agent and a lawyer, I thought. How cool does that sound? Also, I had always been interested in what is considered “soft” IP law — copyright, trademark, licensing. It is nearly impossible, if not totally impossible, to do soft IP work in Boston straight out of law school, however, so I had already chosen a different post-law school path (i.e., tax).

The partner’s office did not look like a typical partner’s office — huge bookshelves were crammed with books, an oriental rug was on the floor, art covered the walls. Sitting front and center on his bookshelf was a copy of my oldest childhood friend’s recent book. Yes, he had been her first agent. Already, the karma was good. The law partner and I talked for nearly an hour, and then he called in his partner in the agency, and she and I talked for another hour. “How does one get to do what you do?” I asked the law partner, a 6-ft, 4-inch man who could have walked out of an Updike novel, with his shock of white hair, his black turtleneck and his pressed cords (and, I would later learn, his lovely penchant for a beer or a glass of wine at lunch). “How can one be an agent and a lawyer?”

“One really can’t,” he told me. “My law firm let me start this agency to keep me happy and my clients at the firm.” Why don’t you come work for us as an agent? he and his agency partner suggested. I had a writing, editing, and publishing background and knew a lot of writers. But I had just spent three years and thousands and thousands of dollars to get a law degree. Still, I was intruiged.

Over the next three years we kept talking. Eventually, the agency moved out of its home at Margo’s firm and aligned itself (in a relationship too complicated and probably boring to go into here) with the boutique firm. Free from the oversight of the powers-that-be at the old firm, the agency partners called me up. We can hire you now, they told me. We can hire you to help [law partner] with his media practice and to become an agent. At this point, I was eight months pregnant with Little O. “Can you give me 18 weeks paid maternity leave?” I asked. Sadly, again, this was not the time for me to make a move.

But we kept talking. And flirting with the idea of me working for them in a hybrid lawyer/agent role. And I could never really get the two charismatic partners — the law partner/agent and the other agency partner — out of my head. What they saw (see?) in me is, I think, someone who could step into an agent’s role because of not only my general knowledge of the publishing world, good writing, and editing but also because I am an extrovert. Which, if you have seen any depictions of an agent on TV, no matter how dramatic (think: Jerry McGuire; Ari Gold from Entourage), you kind of need to be. In addition, practicing media, entertainment, and intellectual property law is much more substantively interesting to me than general tax law, so when they were finally able to create a position where I could do both, I decided to think about it very, very seriously.

I am, of course, thrilled by the outcome. I’m nervous — it is a small firm (we were negotiating over whether they could provide me with a laptop! No BigLaw perks here…), and I will be basically starting over as a first-year associate because of the new practice area. Not to mention I need to find agency clients! I mean, this is rather entrepreneurial. But my mind is already racing each night with ideas for books and the writer-friends (or friends I will turn into writers) who should write them. I feel creative and enthused in a way I have not for many years.

The Long Story

A little more than three years ago I decided to start a blog. I polled my family about what I should call it, and my mother came up with Marbury v. Madison Ave. Brilliant! It captures what I hoped to do with this blog: reflect my life as a lawyer and my interest in the law, but also be true to the life I had before law school — that of writing, popular culture, the media.

If I were a devotee of The Secret (like my sister!) I’d say that, three years ago, I put out in the universe what I really wanted to do — somehow merge these two aspects of my background and, indeed, my personality. And it has finally happened. So will the blog change? Will it become an “agent’s blog”?

In part, no. I know that my family and friends read this blog, but I’m also thrilled every time I hear that another lawyer or another mom or another lawyer mom or another lawyer dad or another law student has found me here. I will still be practicing law — this was very important to me, as I do like being a lawyer and it was a long road to become one. And I want to write about my new practice and to continue to write about the challenges that the lawyer-parent faces (although hopefully mine will change in nature now that I’m no longer working for a huge firm).

At the same time, I recognize that in my new role as agent I will need to think about being a businesswoman and an entrepreneur. I am of course aware of the role that social media — blogs, Facebook, Twitter — plays in this.  Were I a writer trying to find an agent, the first thing I would do is Google “agent blog”. And I’ve done so — many of the agent’s blogs I find are full of practical advice: how to query, how the publishing business works, etc. I’m in no position to be offering practical advice yet, however.

Writers who are drawn to me, then, will initially have to want to work with me because of what I can bring other than years and years of publishing industry experience. They will know that I am working with an incredibly reputable agency and will be backed with the support and experience of my colleagues. They will know that I have 10+ years of experience as a writer and editor myself. They will know that I also have business experience as an attorney and this will bring a different context and perspective to what I can do for them in terms of real-world issues such as negotiations and navigating the world of selling books. And maybe if they find this blog, they’ll get a sense of me as a person because, ultimately, the writer-agent relationship has to be very personal. A writer has to feel confident that his or her agent is advocating for  the writer’s best interests, whether the agent is helping shape and edit the manuscript or interacting with a publishing house.

I’ve been deliberately vague about for whom I’m working because I want to think through my social media strategy a bit. Do I start a new blog that is solely for my agency work, and, in doing so, freely give my contact information, the name of my agency, my thoughts on the business? Or do I stay here at Marbury v Madison Ave — the blog with the prescient name — and stay true to what I have been doing, which is writing about my work and, at times, my family and hope that this will attract the types of writers with whom I’d work well? In other words, writers who want to work with an agent who is a lawyer and a mother and a friend and a runner and a wine drinker? I would, of course, have to make myself a bit more public. It’s not like anyone reading this who doesn’t know me couldn’t easily find out who I am, but neither is it like I’m a public figure in the First Amendment sense.

Dear readers, what do you think? Keep this blog as it has been and if I choose to attack the social-media marketing world, create a new blog just for that? Or try to meld the two here?

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10 Comments »

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  1. Keep the blogs separate. 🙂 xoxo

  2. i would have never thought of writing this essay about myself and michelle obama until you *recruited* me. no one at The Washington Post suggested it. be sure to tell your new colleagues that you were sole impetus for this well-received piece. congratulations. i can’t say strongly enough for utterly happy i am for you. now don’t forget about the little people — let’s start talking again about my ideas!

    http://wapo.st/9OFaMy

    theola
    (whose given up FB for Lent and is really, really missing your updates. thank goodness for Twitter!

  3. I agree- two separate blogs.

  4. Two Blogs. Boundaries are important.

  5. SO thrilled for you and your fortuitous adventure. (And yes…I’d love to bend your ear.)I’d develop a separate branded, professional blog (maybe Kathryn Last Name.com), and include a “slice of me” section where you hand-pick essays/posts to include to educate people about you. That gives you the personal creative license to write whatevah you wanna here.

    • Yes, this is a really good idea. I still want to give people a sense of “me” — because, at least at the beginning, that is what I have to offer. I was trying to figure out how to do this — your idea is great. Thank you. And can’t wait to chat!

  6. Simply put: Bravo. I can’t wait to sit and watch you take flight. xox

  7. Tremendously exciting for you! And such a fun direction to take your career I would think.

    I think everyone agrees, keep them separate, and I think starting out with a fresh brand will be helpful and interesting.

    Make sure to let us know what you come up with!

  8. Wow. I am so happy for you! You sound so much different than just a month ago. I totally agree that when you started your blog you just put it out there. And now look what happened! (I am not a “Secret” person myself but there’s a bit of magic here).

    I love your blog. I also think you are an amazing writer. Seeing how most writers have some sort of publisher-sponsored blog, I think you might want to have two out there as well. But if you have one, I don’t see the problem. It totally rocks as is!

    Pamela

  9. For what it’s worth, you seem like a person who melds.


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