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What Mid-Life Crisis? Skadden Partner Quits Law Because He Has ‘Been Blessed With The Incredible Good Fortune Of Being Married To TaQuita Thorns’

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“I have decided to start a new phase of my life. I do not plan to practice law,” explains Garrett Waltzer, a California-based partner at international law firm Skadden, in a departure email leaked yesterday to US blog Above the Law. At which point the prose takes an unlikely turn.

“Instead, I have been blessed with the incredible good fortune of being married to TaQuita Thorns…Going forward, I plan to be a supportive husband and do all I can to help TaQuita achieve her mission to improve the world through music,” continues Waltzer, who is in his early 50s and got together with Thorns after his ex-wife “fell in love with her personal trainer”. The lovestruck corporate lawyer then proceeds to add a host of links to Thorns’ website and YouTube performances. The full email is below…

SKADDEN ARPS SLATE MEAGHER & FLOM — DEPARTURE MEMO — GARRETT WALTZER

Today is my last day as a partner of Skadden Arps. For the last 24 plus years, I have had the honor of calling the Firm my home. Starting off in the Los Angeles Office and then practicing as a partner in the Bay Area for the last 15 years, it has been a pleasure to work with so many wonderfully talented lawyers and staff in Skadden offices around the world.

I am forever grateful for the rich and diverse professional opportunities and the terrific mentoring that taught me how to be a lawyer. I am especially thankful for the many friendships I have developed with my partners and colleagues at the Firm.

I have decided to start a new phase of my life. I do not plan to practice law.

Instead, I have been blessed with the incredible good fortune of being married to TaQuita Thorns, a talented singer from Detroit, Michigan who is just beginning her career in the music business. In addition to writing and recording outstanding R&B, Rock & Soul songs, TaQuita is an energetic performer with a dazzling voice and stunning looks. I am very excited about TaQuita’s prospects. Going forward, I plan to be a supportive husband and do all I can to help TaQuita achieve her mission to improve the world through music and, in the process, become a force in the music industry.

I hope to stay in touch with my many friends at the Firm. You can always reach me at [redacted].

Best wishes for your health and happiness,

Garrett

PS: you can follow TaQuita’s career at www.TaQuitaThorns.com and on her YouTube channel www.youtube.com/user/TaQuitaThorns. You can preview TaQuita’s new yet-to-be-released music video, “Nobody But You” by clicking http://youtu.be/WnhfHcp2f9k.

14 Comments

Simon Myerson

I wouldn’t. In principle, the idea of Chambers making money from applicants is wrong. There is no compulsion to hold such an event (and no reason why the people speaking should not do so for free). If you aren’t prepared to cover your costs – presumably on the basis that the best applicants would apply to you and the publicity would be positive – then don’t do it.

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colmmu

Can Michael give a Victor Kiam advertorial guaranteeing your money back if you don’t get pupillage?

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Jonathan James

Actually I quite liked champagne socialite – it might be more apt in fact.

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Franklin Masters

I struggle to see what is wrong with this. A set of Chambers is a commercial operation. I very much doubt they expect to attract more than 20 people onto this course at £186 per head – hence it would generate revenue of £3,700. Whilst they would probably get more people (maybe 50?) at the new lower ‘early-bird’ price of £42.50, that only generates revenue of £2,100. As TheLawLecturer points out, they’ve hired a room, are presumably paying for refreshments – that’s going to cost a minimum day delegate rate of £75 per head, and probably more at a weekend.

Someone above points out that it’s not mandatory to attend this sort of course. Precisely. Market forces will drive it, and indeed market forces have forced the organisers to drop the price from £186 to £42.50.

I dislike the sense of entitlement displayed by some of the posters above. You do not have a right to a pupillage. You might learn something useful at the course, or you may not. That’s a judgment call for you to take. If you think the Tooks course will offer little that’s not available elsewhere for free, don’t go. But don’t attack a Chambers which is seeking (albeit spectacularly unsuccessfully) to shore up some of the diminishing revenues available to the Bar.

Perhaps some of the above posters should reflect on this: if a reputable Chambers such as Tooks is driven to this sort of commercial offering, things must be pretty dire. Do you really want to be joining such a profession? Are you prepared to put up with the many years of self-sacrifice that being a junior tenant in most Chambers entails? Hard times don’t end when you complete the BPTC.

Of more interest is whether the organisers are refunding £143.50 (£186 – £42.50) to those ‘early birds’ who booked a place before the bad publicity caused the lower ‘early bird’ price to be introduced. LEGALCHEEK – why don’t you ask them?

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Franklin Masters

In fact, having just been on the website for their venue – http://www.friendshouse.co.uk/large-meeting-hall – I see the ‘large’ meeting room has a capacity of 1,100 people and a day delegate rate starting at £36 (although that, I suspect, would be with a pretty hefty guaranteed minimum number).

So my assumption that they were expecting only 20 people at £186 is plainly wrong. On the basis the ‘small’ meeting room takes 200 people, one can infer Tooks anticipated more than 200 attending. Based on £186 per person revenue, and cost of (say) £50, and deducting the VAT element, leaves a profit of about £100 per person. Multiply that by 200 delegates, and it’s a nice little profit. Multiply it by 1,100, and it’s even better!

I’m off now, to set up my own seminar for Bar students on how to get pupillage…

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Quinn Clarke

CORRECTION:
Gray’s Inn has been cited by Mr Naeem Mian as having given its backing to this enterprise. This is completely incorrect. The Inn was asked to circulate the advertisement, which upon discovering the cost to students, it did not. Gray’s Inn offers its students, at no charge, advice on covering letters, CVs, pupillage applications, etc. In addition, and at no cost to our members, we will set up a mock pupillage interview for a student who has a confirmed pupillage interview scheduled at either a self employed or employed organisation. Students have an incredible amount of money invested in their pursuit of a career at the Bar. The Inn does all in its power not to add to that financial burden, but to help ease the burden wherever possible.

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Cynical hack

The people running this course have no interest in helping people and wish to line their own profits. It is a disgrace that Tooks Chambers is even countenancing this, but not surprising.

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Crimewave

I have it on good authority that some of the guest speakers did not know students were being charged to attend. I am aware that L Power, G Greene and A Bell, all named speakers offer their advice through different agencies for free. Moreover I am reliably informed that each was under the impression that this was not a paid even. It seems the students were not the only people who had the wool pulled over their eyes.

Any student needing this sort of advice should go to their Inn or seek free or nominal fee courses.

Any barrister charging that sort of prices to students should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. Clearly they are either independently wealthy or they have forgotten how hard it is to be a student trying to obtain pupillage.

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WigAndGown

Due to sponsorship being withdrawn at the last minute, and having made commitments to launch this event, the initial price was in excess of £100. The ticket price had originally included not only the one-day seminar, but also intensive, follow-up, small group training sessions post-event, as advertised on this site. (Due to funding restraints, this service is no longer available).

Due to unnamed sponsorship that we seemed to have easily replaced we decided to try and make several grand for our newly minted Ltd company. Now that the negative publicity has resulted in us being shamed into offering this for free, we have removed the intensive follow-up session due to funding restraints which we didn’t have when we wanted to charge you £130 a pop, wouldn’t have had if we had retained the earlier unnamed sponsorship, but can’t afford with the new sponsorship.

Over the course of this weekend negotiations that had been ongoing were concluded. The result was that we were able to offer this seminar for £42.50. In order to further reduce this cost, we have today secured additional sponsorship from Ahmed & Co. Solicitors with the result that attendance at this seminar will now be free.

We realised that £130 was pie in the sky so we tried it on at £42.50 (£46.50 would have been more poignant but money really is too tight to mention) and that still caused a storm so this afternoon we decided to charge nothing. Much like everyone else who provides this sort of advice.

Despite being a recently established commercial organisation, this particular project was never envisaged as being one aimed at generating profit. Indeed, we have provided in excess of 100 free tickets (before securing sponsorship) to various educational institutions (including the various BPTC providers) to be distributed at their discretion to students whom they consider may find the fee prohibitive.

Come on, who hasn’t started a Ltd company with a bizarrely unrelated name three weeks before an event with the sole purpose of not generating a profit…

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Richard

To be honest, nobody is forcing you to hold this event. If you can’t afford to run the event, then don’t do it. Instead f0cus on advising clients, and once you have saved up 10% of your salary, you can use that money to pay for the event so that student can attend for free.

Surely life at the Bar isn’t so tough that you have to supplement your income by charging students sky high fees for information that is freely available online and at the Inns. If Micheal Mansfield is defaulting on his mortgage, he should refinance :)

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Catherine Rose

It’s now free

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GDL Student who Attended the Event

The initial price of the event, and understandable controversy surrounding it, was extremely unfortunate, as the event itself was fantastic. I only decided to go once I found out that it was free, and it was much more useful and enjoyable than I thought it would be. I was worried that it would be along the ‘make sure you get some work experience’ vein, but the morning of ‘tips’ was actually very informative, with each barrister giving an insight into the selection process of their chambers. Lots of advice was given which I hadn’t already thought about. Perhaps as a BPTC student applying for pupillage you might already know these things, but I’m doing the GDL and am not applying this year, so as an introduction it was brilliant for me. The afternoon comprised of a talk from Imran Khan about why we should all be solicitor-advocates instead (which was brilliant, obviously), and suitably-inspiring speeches from Michael Turner QC and Michael Mansfield QC. Basically, the event was great. If they do more (for free) I would encourage everyone to go.

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Vaneeta Sharma

This event is definitely the most beneficial pupillage event I have been to. I am also a GDL student and am in the process of applying both for pupillage and mini-pupillage, in which this event has strongly helped. The day consisted of speeches from a panel of reputable barristers who outlined in a clear and understandable format, the structured criterion in which to form the foundation of your application. I feel one of the most beneficial aspects of the event, was the chance for students to interact on a one to one basis with the barristers, who were more than willing to support and advice on a personal level. I am genuinely so glad that I went to this event and will keep up to date in case any similar events happen in the future. From another fellow student, I encourage you all to do the same!

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United - Aspiring Barrister

In order to enter the Bar, we have all had to complete rigorous academic training, and quite rightly so. However, this training does not come cheap, and to charge a fee at the level proposed for this event flies in the face of the very creditable recent progress made by the Bar in widening access and ensuring that a career as a barrister is open to all.

In my view the Bar is a meritocratic profession at heart. However, we at the Bar cannot escape the fact that the profession is seen in some quarters as not being sufficiently representative, and this criticism has been used as a stick at which to beat the Bar for some time. We at the Bar do ourselves no favours in this regard by attempting to charge £175 to students in an attempt to cash in on their sheer desperation to gain pupillage. As the number of pupillages dwindle, this kind of profiteering could very easily be seen as exploiting a vulnerable market.

Most of us have either completed an LLB or a degree in a different field – for arguments sake, let’s assume we have incurred approximately £10-18,000 in completing our undergraduate degree. Those like me – who haven’t opted for a LLB – go on to do a GDL which can cost within the region of £6-10,000. Some of us then contemplate acquiring an LLM, to ‘distinguish’ ourselves from our contemporaries; this costs £3-12,000. After spending £19-40,000, we then face the penultimate academic stage – The Bar Professional Training Course which costs a whopping £8-16,500.

That gives us a grand total of £27-56,500 – and bear in mind that this doesn’t include the cost of living, accommodation, books etc. To reach this stage we have either accumulated a string of debts, worked ourselves to the bone, and/or have had parents who have sacrificed their life savings, remortgaged their home, and worked two jobs or overtime.

We then confront the dreaded and most daunting hurdle – seeking pupillage. We are repeatedly advised – now that we are equipped with the academic training – that we must obtain practical experience. This can consist anything from voluntary work at charities, NGOs, CABs, advice surgeries, and international stints to working as paralegal, advocate and so forth. Now, let’s all be honest, the money is not great. But for me and many more like me, we are not in this profession for the money; job satisfaction is the key and only motivation. Indeed, taking into account the legal aid cuts that are due to take place next month, the Bar is faced with a bleak and uncertain future for all.

My point is, I’m not saying it is impossible – nothing is impossible – but it certainly makes it difficult, to say the very least, to even reach this stage. I understand and agree that we are striving to enter a profession which requires hard work, determination, resilience, integrity, intellectual rigour and dedication; but the increasing financial constraints only serve to provide ammunition for those who would say that membership of the Bar is a privilege open only to the more affluent members of society today.

Now more importantly, as aspiring barristers, we look up to senior barristers to encourage and support us as to the realities and possible avenues of entering the Bar. We do not expect to pay an ‘exorbitant’ amount, namely £175, for an opportunity that should be if not free, then accessible to all. I would like to emphasise at this point, this is in no way whatsoever, a criticism on part of the many keynote speakers such as Michael Mansfield QC, Jo Sidhu QC and Andrew Hall QC who sacrificed their Saturday to provide free advice and support to individuals such as me. Indeed I am certain that if we all had the privilege of meeting such individuals, they would have been more than willing to provide such advice in the absence of any event. Neither is this a reflection upon the ethos of leading chambers such as Tooks and institutions such as the Criminal Bar Association. If anything it is the contrary, organisations, chambers and individuals such as those inspire barristers such as myself who are seeking pupillage, that there is a glimmer of hope – that the notion that the Bar is open to all is still prevalent today.

However, £175, really? Honestly, that is a 1/4 of my monthly salary, as for many more individuals … Now I understand and agree that events of this nature can have a quasi-commercial character to them, they incur costs that need to be met, and where people give up their time free of charge to talk at them, that is a matter of their generosity and not something that should necessarily be taken for granted.

Nevertheless, how is £175 in any way justifiable as a reasonable cost for a ticket/ event providing advice on how to obtain pupillage? Let’s play devil’s advocate here and break this down logically: how much would holding an event like this actually cost? The likely estimation of costs would entail venue hire on a hourly rate of £60-100; light snacks and refreshments at £200 – 500; catering at £100-250; advertising at £100 – 250; and miscellaneous costs of £100- 250. Of course, keynote speakers spoke free, so that was one cost that did not need to be factored in. Now if I am missing something, by all means I am open and amenable to this, however surely this couldn’t have cost more than £980 – 2050? To charge students £10-25 or even £30 is reasonable and justifiable: we all recognise that events such as these do require money and generate costs, but £175? Should one ponder, has a blatant bottom line approach been taken?

Now let’s go on to deliberate an approximate estimation of how many pupils, who indeed had the initial funds requested, to attend what was an “invaluable opportunity and event” as exclaimed by a fellow friend. We all know it’s that time of year again, and we are all anxiously preparing our applications for pupillage. So let’s estimate that 150- 200 individuals attended, that would generate £26,250 – 35,000 in return. That in turn yields a staggering estimated profit of £24,200 – 32,950. Wow – was a scholarship “originally” advertised as a surprise award to holders of the golden tickets?

Yes the cost of this event was “originally” £175, then reduced to £80, to a further £42.50 and eventually made free of charge, with a full refund to all who were vulnerable enough to pay. But this event could have easily been sponsored and supported by all – this is indicated by City Law Solicitors, Tooks and various keynote speakers involvement. Indeed, I have also collaborated in holding such an event in the past, and was pleasantly surprised at the amount of institutions, barristers, solicitors and Inns of Court who were willing to freely commit and support such event without any persuasion. So why was this event “originally”, and one places emphasis on “originally”, advertised for £175 when all these opportunities were readily available, or perhaps even confirmed from the very outset? Hmmmm.

Lastly, although it is conceded that this event was advertised as being priced at £42.50, and then eventually free, individuals such as myself were prevented from the opportunity of such an invaluable experience. Why? Because we did not have the initial funds to attend and/or by the time that we were aware that it was free, it was sadly too late. As previously stated, taking into account financial constraints, do we now need to spend £175 for advice on how to obtain pupillage? What must we do next, sell our kidneys to be afforded such opportunities?

One musters the courage to question the unanswerable, the following three-fold questions:

1. IF the benefit of a scholarship was “originally” advertised as part of this event, justifying the original sum of £175 then why wasn’t and hasn’t this “originally” been promoted by keynote speakers, organisations and students?

2. If sponsorship was secured at the very outset of this event then why were tickets still priced at £175?

3. Why weren’t obvious sponsors who indeed committed to such an event approached from the very outset?

Being an individual who possesses an indomitable amount of passion and determination, I would like to conclude on this note: notwithstanding all the pressures and financial constraints, I and, I am sure, others like me, will not be dissuaded from pursuing a career at the Bar, and will continue to fearlessly fight for the honour, to proudly someday, call ourselves barristers.

By

An aspiring Barrister

Disclaimer: It is vehemently submitted that this commentary does not intend to discredit or disparage keynote speakers, institutions, chambers, organisations and others.

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