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    Catapult2014 - What An Experience!

    About Catapult2014

    March 1, 2014 I spent at the Catapult2014 – a second annual conference that “empowers law students and young lawyers to take control of their legal careers and think creatively about the future.”

    Catapult is the brainchild of Alison Monahan and Lee Burgess, the co-founders of Law School Toolbox and Bar Exam Toolbox. Alison is also the founder of The Girls Guide to Law School. Catapult is for lawyers, and law students, and anyone else affiliated with the business of practice of law. You really should mark your calendar to attend next year!


    The Day Before

    The night before the conference, I found myself at the VIP speaker reception (hosted in a beautiful 100-year-old Pac Heights mansion, which is always a nice touch) and realized that I am surrounded by some REALLY IMPRESSIVE PEOPLE. Here are some characteristics they all shared:

    • Everyone was interesting and fun to talk to – successful solo practitioners, moms and mom-to-be’s building amazing businesses, the guy who quit biglaw and walked across the country with his dog, a couple of recent law school grads providing legal services in the worst neighborhood in SF, the litigator turned into a psychotherapist, bloggers, coaches, writers.
    • Most were young (compared to the age of an average other law-function attendee) – yet were speakers at the conference.
    • All have tried the traditional career path, found themselves to be unhappy (or, in rare cases, knew from the beginning they’d be unhappy), and ACTUALLY DID SOMETHING ABOUT IT – some left the law altogether, but the majority found a niche in it (either practicing law or supporting practicing lawyers) that made them feel satisfied and accomplished.

    So, it was a gathering of HAPPY INTERESTING YOUNG PEOPLE that have flown in from all over the country to present at the conference, after meeting and developing their relationships on Twitter. This was going to be good.


    The Themes

    The Catapult website says:

    “Our goal with Catapult is to bring a broadly diverse set of voices together to address the realities of a 21st Century legal career in an friendly, action-oriented setting. From personal branding and social media to handling a winding career path or starting your own practice, you’ll hear from leaders in the field and get their insights into your unique situation.

    Everyone is there to help!"

    Well, I am one of those people who has felt a tremendous disconnect between what the world (including the official spokespeople for the legal profession) says “the practice of law” is, to what I suspected – and confirmed – the practice of law actually is, since pretty much day one of law school (ten years ago!)  

    And in my ten years in the industry, I have attended numerous “practice of law” events that claim to represent “the realities of a 21st century legal career.” But for the most part, the “21st-centuriness” of what they talked about ended at a virtual receptionist instead of an old-fashioned physical one.

    But this event lived up to the promise. The two major, official themes were authenticity, and failure.



    Authenticity. Think about it. As it pertains to the practice of law, the business of law. This is huge. In a way, authenticity is the antithesis of the practice of law, where the lawyer is a shell, a container, a machine hired to argue on behalf of someone else, regardless of what he thinks of that person’s actions.

    Take the criminal defense attorney defending murderers and rapists (how could they, every single layperson in the world wonders!). Well, “everyone’s entitled to due process of law,” the collective legal community says. Implying that the lawyer’s own morality is completely nonexistent, or at least not as important as the criminal’s right to due process.

    Anyway, I digress. I feel that authenticity is, unfortunately, a completely ignored concept, as far as the practice of law is concerned. However, I am certain that authenticity is the single most central necessity to personal happiness and job satisfaction. So, it’s a tremendous disconnect, and I was happy to see a day dedicated to it.



    Lawyers do not fail. We are very smart and capable people who march into the law school of our choice, kick ass on the exams, get into the top 10% of our class, score the dream biglaw job that pays us a ton of money, and live happily ever after, zealously advocating on behalf of our clients and closing one exciting deal after another.


    Obviously, wrong. But, nobody ever talks about it!

    Well, that’s not necessarily true. People do talk about it. In their defense, even law schools are starting to talk about it. But the problem is that their messaging is not heard by the target audience – people who want to go, are in, or have recently finished law school. What they have believed is the nonsense dream I described a few lines above. Until they graduate, pass the bar, and the biglaw job is not there. Or worse yet, they get the biglaw job, and they are unbelievably miserable. Because after all that, a J.D. and a bar admission turns out to not be a foul-proof recipe for success and personal happiness.

    So in a way, a huge percentage of lawyers must first fail on the traditional career path, and then find their own way, in the world where up until recently, finding your own path and fighting for your own happiness was pretty much not mentioned. And failure was frowned upon.


    The Speakers

    Maybe I’ll write more about the people I met at the conference. But even if I don’t, I strongly recommend that you visit the conference website and learn more about the speakers – they are really amazing people!


    In Summary

    I loved this event, in case I haven’t said it enough. I was enormously proud to be a part of it, and to meet all the amazing people it brought together.

    This conversation must continue. And it must grow within the unfortunately small niche circle of happy legal industry professionals, and spread to the larger population of law students and lawyers, and eventually into the mainstream non-legal community. Because if the word gets out that an incredibly fulfilling, lucrative, intellectually stimulating, and flexible careers in law are indeed possible, I bet people will want to go to law school again!


    The Power of Authenticity

    Recently, I was invited to be a guest blogger on Trebuchet Legal, in preparation for the Catapult Conference in SF on March 1, 2014, where I will be speaking.

    It took a while to write that post, as it's very special and opens a new chapter in the life of Independence Track, and my career. But finally, I did it, and you can read and comment here:

    Please let me know what you think! Thanks!


    A New Book Review!

    Hi There,

    I know, it's been a while, time flies when you are having fun. Just wanted to share quick news: The Minnesota Freelance Attorney Network reviewed the Independence Track. Here's their bottom line:

    New grads and experienced lawyers are in different places when it comes to starting a practice. Even if her business model isn’t for everyone, Modlin offers sound advice to new lawyers considering freelance practice. It’s a quick read at a great price. I would recommend The Independence Track to anyone interested in starting a freelance practice.

    Thanks for the kind words! 

    You can read the whole review here: