Do You Believe in Life After Law?

Rebecca Ditsch Then: Associate, employee benefits, Chadbourne & Parke (two years) and Fried Frank (two and a half years). Now:

Rebecca Ditsch

Then: Associate, employee benefits, Chadbourne & Parke (two years) and Fried Frank (two and a half years).

Now: Owner of The Farmer’s Daughter, a Brooklyn bakery. Also does legal research for a publishing company.

On law firm life: “I was a great associate because I was stressed out all the time, and my boss loved that.”

On similarities between her current and former careers: “I like being around people who appreciate that precision is important. That’s what I like about baking, too: the precision. I take a lot of pride in making a beautiful—and delicious—cake.”

On the pay gap: “I make approximately 40 percent of what I did when I left the firm four years ago (excluding bonus).”

On her new life: “I used to pay people to do things for me, and now I do them for myself.”

Melissa Graham

Then: Partner, state and local tax litigation, McDermott Will & Emery, Chicago (10 years).

Now: Co-owner of Monogramme Events, a catering company specializing in sustainable cuisine and organic ingredients.

On law firm life: In law school, she was already thinking she would leave the profession after a few years, once she had saved enough to start her own business. “The fact that I lasted so long was a surprise even to me.”

On similarities between her current and former careers: Client development is key. “At a big firm, that consisted of learning how to play golf, and then going to dinner and talking about golf. Now, I go out for coffee or dinner all the time.”

On the pay gap: Was making “over $200,000” a year when she left her firm; now earns approximately $60,000.

On her new life: She loves what she does now, but remains in touch with her lawyer friends. “The last three events that I’ve done have been for McDermott partners.”

Robert Kindler

hThen: Partner, corporate (mergers and acquisitions), Cravath, Swaine & Moore.

Now: Vice chairman of investment banking, Morgan Stanley. Previously at JPMorgan Chase, where he served as global head of M&A.

On law firm life: “It was good. I loved Cravath. But after having done it for 20 years, it’s good to have a different experience. The aspects of doing it from a banker’s side are a lot different. You’re focusing on the business rather than the legal aspects.”

On increased career mobility: “When I started in the law, in 1980, people didn’t move around a lot. Now young people starting out in law or business expect that they’re going to have three or four different careers in their time.”

On his new life, and whether he’d ever return to practicing law: “I think it would be hard to go back to the law after having spent seven years with a lot more interaction with CEOs of companies.… You really don’t have that as a lawyer anymore.”

Saira Rao

Then: Associate, corporate, Cleary Gottlieb (almost three years).

Now: Novelist. Author of Chambermaid, a Devil Wears Prada for federal law clerks, published in June.

On law firm life: Cleary was “a nice place to work. People tell stories about law firms being horrible so much that I had low expectations.… I found it surprisingly pleasant. I met some great people who have become great friends.”

On the pay gap: “In ‘Jenny From the Block,’ Jennifer Lopez croons: ‘I used to have a little, now I have a lot.’ I am the reverse J-Lo.”

On her new life: “I prefer writing to working in law, maybe because I like being my own boss and working for myself.”

Charles Star

Then: Associate, litigation, three firms (six years).

Now: Stand-up comedian. Also works as a contract attorney.

On law firm life: “The complete lack of control that you have over your own schedule is very frustrating.… You mostly serve the purpose of being a warm body to do things that other people simply don’t want to do. You’re overpaid for your skills and underpaid for the psychological trauma.”

On whether he incorporates his law firm experiences into his comedy: “Most of what I find funny about working at a law firm is way too ‘inside baseball’ to someone who isn’t a lawyer.… There are things about law firm culture that I think are not any different from other office culture. Like when a meeting breaks up, everyone runs to where the uneaten sandwiches are.”

On his new life: “I didn’t like being a lawyer, and I didn’t like the work. I quit to do stand-up.”

Do You Believe in Life After Law?